Watching a dog vacuum up scattered biscuits, I started thinking about metaphors and similes. There are some that can fashion a simile like a Raphael painting, full of life, colour and light. The gift of the gab can turn even the most boring tale into an experience to be remembered.
I remember my father relating moments from our family past like my heavily pregnant mother learning to drive. It always had me rolling on the floor laughing, but if I go to tell it to someone else, it just isn’t funny. I guess they can’t see the resigned look on the face of the dog that was run over twice by a panicked wife rebounding off a gate post. They don’t know the flustered fear that turns to righteous anger when confronted with a burning house, a wrecked car and a bleeding dog. My mother is a farm girl, built to last and throw her own weight. My dad…well there is no truth at all to the rumour that he is a hobbit…but one look at him, and you can see how the rumour was started. So the visual image of the tiny man being verbally thrashed while his life fell around him is funny to those of us sitting in a safe lounge with that same dog and miles and years of separation.
The voice is the main thing. The bare facts, a fire, a stolen car, an injured pet, they are horrible. Careening down the rutted road being chased by a taxi may be an exciting chase scene. A grown man shaking his head and saying, “And somehow it was my fault”, that is just plain funny.
So how do you put the right “voice” into your scenes? Some phrases can be double edged swords. “Slid into the comfort of the waiting sheets as if they were her mother’s arms”, works very well for those of us with wonderful, warm and cuddly mothers. Some poorly treated souls would rather kiss a wookie.