An Exercise For Your Muse
Writers nowadays are urged to avoid overworked clichés. I’ve seen some writers come up with interesting metaphors and similes to replace the standard ones, but one must be careful that the new phrases don’t seem contrived.
You can say, “She was as angry as a picknicker when ants carried off the peach pie,” for “She was as mad as a wet hen,” but are you gaining? Instead of, “He was chomping at the bit,” you could say “He was like the guy with an appointment, waiting for a never-ending train,” but it’ll shoot up your word count.
At a writer’s group meeting one day we received sheets with old clichés or idioms. We were to pass them around and substitute something original to replace the old and overworked. In the course of sorting old papers I came across one of these this morning, so I’ll post it for you readers to ponder:
How would you modernize ‘He can’t see the forest for the trees’?
Some suggestions offered by our group:
The literal approach:
— He’s so close to the problem he can’t see the answer.
— Missing the broad point of view, he’s distracted by unimportant things.
— He needs to take a step back and get a better perspective.
The figurative approach:
— The fog is hiding the water.
— He couldn’t see the moon for the flock of geese.
Which would you choose — any other suggestions — or would you been inclined, in your own writing, to stick with the original since it’s so well know?