There is one simile that mutters lazy. It’s more thoughtless than the most common of cliches. It’s so bland and pointless it has no business even calling itself a simile. It evokes less than nothing. It’s boring. Dull. Dried up like a dog turd on concrete during a drought.

It sucks the life out of whatever you’re trying to convey.

A simile should be evocative or convey a new dimension to whatever you’re describing. Trite or cliched similes are bad enough, and those should be avoided as well. But I’d argue this one simile is not only hackneyed but worse than your average cliche.

Ditch this empty simile every single time it turns up in your writing. The only time you should ever use it is as a placeholder when you’re breezing through a first draft and don’t want to pause to think of something better on the fly. But you must replace it with something stronger, richer, more colorful and more creative. Or just leave it out altogether, because it’s better to use no simile at all than this lifeless, lame, zombie-brained excuse for a simile.

The worst simile

It goes something like this:

  • The castle was like she’d never imagined.
  • His laugh was like I never dreamed.
  • The cake tasted like she’d never imagined.
  • The party was more fun than they could have dreamed.
  • Her hair was softer than he’d ever imagined.

And so on. It fails to tell us anything about the castle, the laugh, the cake, the party or her hair. It’s a simile that compares whatever it’s supposed to describe to nothing at all, to a thing so nonexistent that it hasn’t even been imagined or dreamed of. It says nothing. It’s the literary equivalent of a popcorn fart. It’s about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Your reader doesn’t know what your characters could or could not imagine or dream, so this blandishment is guaranteed to fall flat. In fact, if “like I never dreamed” is the best your POV character can come up with, the reader may safely assume the character has no imagination at all.

Maybe that’s why she goes around “never imagining” things.

When I see this dull phrase turn up in a book blurb or promo copy of any kind, I quietly click off. If a writer can’t think of something more interesting to say when she’s trying to market her book, that does not bode well at all for the tens of thousands of words she’s trying to sell.

If you’ve used some form of never imagined/never dreamed in your blurb (or your fiction), a revision is in order.

I read one just today which I’ll paraphrase: Kissing Bob was a turn-on like nothing I had imagined.

That’s all you got, huh?

Poor old Bob.


Photo by KT on Unsplash