Monday, 7 December 2009

Metaphorically Speaking

I've found myself thinking a lot this week about what I enjoy about writing, often followed by an excess of sighing and "Oh why do I do it?" type statements to anyone in range. I spent hours and hours doing re-plotting yesterday and I think that is one of those things I do enjoy, the moment that the plot suddenly snaps into place. But more than that, the thing I find really satisfying is crafting the perfect metaphor. I've noticed them creeping into my blog posts recently and I hope that hasn't been distracting - I started off blogging with a deliberately plain voice and it has interested me how I've begun to develop a style over the last few months. Having a "blog voice" wasn't something I even considered, but I guess it is a process of writing to an audience like anything else. Oh, and just like fiction, I guess I'm still writing primarily for me!

Anyway, back to figurative language. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence) tells me that the levels of competence in a skill are defined as:
1) Unconscious Incompetence - You don't know that you don't know something.
2) Conscious Incompetence - You still don't know it but you realise that you need to.
3) Conscious Competence - You make the effort to learn something and apply it.
4) Unconscious Competence - You know something so well that you don't have to think about it any more.

I had been at stage three with similes and metaphors for a while, with lots of sections in my first draft like:

He types the words as if [insert simile here]

Of course you can't actually force this stuff - figurative description is something that needs to dribble down from the subconscious, but I could generally see where in my text some was needed. Half of the time in draft two a suitable metaphor would arrive and half of the time I would just reword the paragraph. Anyway, recently I seem to have moved onto stage four of the competence scale and it's had some weird effects on the kind of stuff I'm producing. Whereas before I was struggling to be technically competent in my description, I had someone tell me recently that my imagery was actually too beautiful and that it was distracting from the down-and-dirty zombie action. Maybe I need to start writing poetry or something!

He stabs at the keyboard, murdering his lily-white prose in a frenzy of overwriting.

Nick.

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