An Image Fit Only for a Horror Movie

My writing tends to be a little too matter-of-fact considering the complicated plots I prefer. I start out using plenty of similes and metaphors, but when I analyze them, they all sound trite or forced so I edit them out.

“The next minute the children were rolling around on the ground and pummeling each other like . . .” Like what? “Puppies” was too obvious, so I used “bear cubs” until I decided it sounded just as trite. But what else rolls around on the ground and pommels? Mud wrestlers? Thinking that’s not a proper image to use with children, I left off the simile.

Another time I tried to describe a character as one who seemed like a mental lightweight but had hidden depths. I didn’t want to use the trite “like an iceberg,” so I used “like the proverbial iceberg.” All that said is that I know I’m using a cliché, (wink, wink) but since I know it, it’s okay. It’s not okay, so I left it out and was left with another unadorned sentence.

But at least I don’t make mistakes like this one I found in a book by an author who should have known better. “Her eyes swept across the room like a broom.” Her gaze might sweep like a broom, but her eyes? Only in a horror movie, but still . . .ick! That’s almost as hideous an image as “their eyes locked.” How exactly do eyes lock? Like braces sometimes do when teenagers kiss?

Nor did I make this mistake: “The room was so crowded it was literally filled to the rafters.” Literally filled? Does he mean the people were stacked one on top of the other? Or standing on each other’s shoulders? Again, an image fit only for a horror movie.

In the end, I guess I’d rather have a prosaic writing style than one that gives people unintentional nightmares.