Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lips Like Chew Toys

Can't keep doing the same things every year, even though they always come out differently, so I tried a new exercise in my creative writing class last night, and it worked pretty well. I passed out strips of paper to all my students, and had each of them write a simile -- whatever came into their heads.

Then I had them read out their similes, and discuss how they worked -- what the second part of the simile told us about the first part. Pretty standard exercise. "Her lips were like orchid petals" -- her lips were soft, moist, warm, rare, valuable, etc. -- even bluish in color.

Then I collected all the slips of paper, tore them in half, shuffled them around, retaped them together, read the similes created that way, and discussed what these new similes told us.

"Her lips were like a chew toy for men." That makes the lips different, doesn't it? What do we picture now? Chapped -- maybe rough and reddened from too much passionate, violent kissing -- and apparently with more than one man.

"Her unshaven legs were like a desert cactus" became "Her unshaven legs were like burning embers." So rough you could strike a match on them? Capable of exciting passion even though unshaven?

My point...you don't have to worry about making connections too obvious. The human mind is a connection-making machine -- it's wired to look for connections between things. You can take chances, try for the unexpected, try for effects you may not even understand yourself.

As Richard Hugo says in his great book, The Triggering Town, "when you are writing you must assume that the next thing you put
down belongs not for reasons of logic, good sense, or narrative development, but because
you put it there. You, the same person who said that, also said this. The adhesive force
is your way of writing, not sensible connection."

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