Admit it. We’ve all written them. Those elaborate metaphors and similes just seem to flow onto the page, don’t they? Sometimes, we get so enamored of them that they are very hard to let go. But do they really help?
Take a quick read of a few of your very favorite novels. Are they full of elaborate similes? How many poetic metaphors are there? Probably not very many. Why? Because they don’t usually further the story. Instead, these elaborate phrases tend to bog the reader down.
They also tend to remove the character from their immediate situation. If you are tempted to use one, take an objective look at the scene. What is happening? If your character is taking a moment to compare the huge battle he is facing with something totally unrelated, is that realistic? If you were using all of your energy fighting, would you be able to construct something like this in your mind and still be an effective fighter? Probably not. The only thing going through your mind would probably be how to block their next hit or where you could strike them most effectively.
And for love scenes… has your significant other ever spent time elaborating on how your eyes are limpid pools (or have you done this for your partner)? Probably not. Is it poetic? Maybe. Is it right for the scene? Maybe. It depends on your style, your characters and what is happening in the scene.
Before you go overboard, take an objective view of the scene that contains the phrase. Does it further the story? Does it provide insight into the character that we must have? Does it fit in the ongoing action? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, you probably don’t need it.