Use of “Like” and How To Remove
The first critique is back from one of my proof-readers, and they loved it for all the reasons I wanted them to love it, but their only complaint was that I used the “like” simile so much that it became cumbersome and broke up the flow. It seems that I use like followed by a simile as a signature of my own writing style, and it is something that needs to be thinned out.
I did a search within my novel so far and found that I used the word “like”, like, a few thousand times. Some of the characters over-use the word as part of their speech, and if I removed the word too much their characterization would change. One of them uses this word ad nauseum for a desired effect on the reader.
Here are a few ways I will revise them:
1. Use “As” – Similes are descriptions using “like” or “as”, but most of us use the word “like” which completely riddles your reader with it, causing your reader to get that annoying feeling we all get when we get that corn husk stuck between our teeth while eating popcorn. Change about half of them to “as” and you will solve this problem.
2. Description Takes Practice – Try to describe things in a different way using a metaphor instead of a simile. There are several ways to describe things in your novel without using similes at all. Similes seem to be the default for most of us because that is the way most people speak today. Here are a few descriptive literary devices to try:
Hyperbole – the use of exaggeration as a figure of speech. For example, I could write: “The people of this county were poor like a vagrant at a hobo convention.” Or, I could say “In this county there was nothing to buy and no one could buy it if it were for sale.”
Synecdoche – description of something where a part stands for the whole or vice versa. For example, I could write: “His face resembled a rodent like a weasel.” Or I could write: “His face resembled more of a snout.”
3. Use a Metaphor Instead – Sometimes, when the sentence warrants it, you can remove the “like” or “as” altogether and create a metaphor. For example: I could write “She blathered on like a crazy chipmunk on crack.” Or I could write: “She blathered on, some crazy chipmunk on crack.”
I’m not the most experienced (or most published) writer reading this article, so please feel free to post your own ideas about dealing with the plague of overusing the word “like”. We are all waiting for your responses.