You are probably wondering what zombie metaphors are. Good question, they are metaphors that are still used that should not be. Hence the name of this post. Zombies. Get it? Alive (sort of) but should be dead. Well, I thought it was funny.
They are cliché. These are metaphors that are so overused that they are just dead. They no longer have the effect that you want them to have. And using them will weaken your writing.
A good reference book I picked up. And by picked up I mean… I checked it out from the library. (Gasp) I know right! Libraries still exist. Isn’t it awesome? A place where you can barrow books. For FREE. And the library cards are usually free too. Amazing!
Anyway… the book I picked up was How to Not Write Bad by Ben Yagoda. It has a lot of information in it on good writing and bad writing. I think it’s worth reading.
“Avoid Cliches like the Plague”Part III, B. #4. (Yagoda, 124)
Some of my favorite examples that he uses.
“it’s not brain surgery and [anything] on steroids.”(Yagoda, 125)
“[anything] 2.0”(Yagoda, 130)
In fact, some of his examples are things I had never even heard before. So it’s a handy book to put in your writers library.
My own personal example – I’ll let you decide which lines are better.
“He reached out with his left, [hand] used his energy to grab the two that Susirrus was going to pass between and pulled them into his sword.”
“Devros lifted a hand and closed his eyes; a moment later, the two foemen snapped together, became bound as if their skin was transformed into magnets.”
Okay, I am going to point out the errors. There is context that you are probably missing so I’ll clue you in where needed.
Firstly, they are in combat who in their right mind would close their eyes when they are surrounded? No one.
Nest a semicolon was used. (Now this is only a pet peeve of mine and you can do whatever you want in your writing.) I would never use that. Not Ever. It reminds the reader that they are reading, and they might put your reading down so they can do important things like pay taxes or mow the lawn. I never ever want to let my reader know they are reading. I never want them to be reminded. As I said this is my personal opinion so do as you please. But for me that a big fat no.
“Foemen.” This is an outdated word. I wouldn’t use it, ever, but if it works for your writing go ahead and leave it in. I wouldn’t because I don’t want my reader to be jolted out of my story.
Last thing. Magnets. Really? What’s two things that go together?
I dub thee a Zombie Metaphor.
I guess the takeaway from all this is to be creative and try to be unique. If you can’t make it your own alter it so it’s different enough that it has a new taste to it.
Yagoda gives a great example of this.
[The Christian Science Reading Room is a small cove of spiritual knowledge which historically has not been a beacon of popularity among college students.]
Small cove of spiritual knowledge isn’t bad, but bringing in the beacon ruins the effect. I would go for something simple, just adding a little understatement at the end:
The Christian Science Reading Room is a small cove of spiritual knowledge that historically hasn’t been hugely popular among college students.
Metaphors are good. Wholesome things. That when used properly can add layers of beauty to your story. Be careful that when you use a metaphor, that you don’t kill the flow of your story. Of make the reader cringe. That is something that we, as writers, never want.
If you enjoyed reading this please like and share it on social media. As always leave a comment to let me know what you think. And if you want me to talk about some specific craft technique shoot me a message on either twitter or the contact me page.