ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Using Similes To Make Your Writing Shine

Updated on January 1, 2015

I just began reading “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” a book of philosophical prose by Annie Dillard that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. I’d expected it to be good, and as soon as I read the first paragraph I knew it would be. Why? It was picturesque, vivid and filled with similes.

I love metaphors and similes. When I find one I especially like, I record it in a small blue spiral notebook I keep just for that purpose.

Similes, I’ve found, enliven language, fiction or non-fiction.

What Exactly is a Simile?

A simile is a type of metaphor that makes a comparison between two dissimilar things, often by using the words like or as.

A good simile often creates a vivid image in the mind of the reader. But it’s like telling a joke, it either works or falls flat. If the reader has to try too hard to “get it” then the simile should be tossed away.

The easiest way to create a simile is to visualize what you’re writing about and let a simile pop into your mind. Then come back to it later to see if it works.

Most similes create a parallel image in which something familiar, such as an ox, is used to help a reader understand something unfamiliar, such as a character's physical strength. However, similes should be original, not clichés.

Favorites I’ve Recorded Over the Years

1. “The cuff of his ancient flannel shirt is as soft as a spaniel’s ear.” From “The Mercy Killers” by Lisa Reardon

2. “He looked as frantic as a lottery winner who’d lost his ticket.” From “Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis

3. “The ends of his moustache were twisted up stiffly, like little horns.” From “My Antonia” by Willa Cather

4. "The sea was then a very tender blue, like the dress of the Virgin Mary." From "Mixing Cocktails" by Jean Rhys

5. “I tried to keep still, but my heart felt like crickets scratching to get out of a cage.” From “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

6. “She could twist him around her little finger like he was the red on a barber pole.” From “Fried Green Tomatoes” by Fannie Flagg

7. She moved with a thrilling quickness, gestures sudden and light, always perched on the edge of her chair like some long elegant marsh-bird about to startle and fly away." From "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt

8. “The Mercedes’s spiffy dials and gauges were now lit up like a fighter plane’s.” From “The Bonfire of the Vanities," by Tom Wolfe

9. “I slid to my feet and found no balance. The stool wobbled roundly on its base, like a coin.” From “Money” by Martin Amis.

10. “Standing on the terrace was like being on the prow of a ship sailing over a sea of Manhattan rooftops.” From “One Fifth Avenue” by Candace Bushnell

As I continued reading Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” I found many good similes, cast like bright jewels throughout her prose. Here’s one more: “You can guess statistically what any batch of electrons might do, but you cannot predict the career of any one particle. They seem to be as free as dragonflies.”

Photo credit:


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • JohnMello profile image


      5 years ago from England

      Good collection of similes, Elyse Haldeman, and a well-written article. Why not add some pictures for more impact? Voted up!

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 

      8 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Your hub is like a refreshing story, crafted with skill.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)