Flaubert’s Kettle

“Human Speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” – Gustave Flauflaubertbert,  Madame Bovary


I see a lot of writing coming over the transom from people who seem smitten by metaphorical imagery. Unless you can write it like Flaubert, I recommend finding another way to depict whatever it is you are trying to describe. The metaphors and similes I see usually don’t work that well. When you start using these figures of speech, it’s easy to fall into cliché. (I advise writers to “avoid metaphorical imagery and clichés like the plague.”) Editors and agents tend to view this kind of writing as characteristic of the novice and a sign of the writer’s insecurity. Like you’re trying too hard. You don’t have to model yourself after Ernest Hemingway or Raymond Carver. But still… to paraphrase Freud, sometimes the best way to describe a green tree is to just call it a green tree.


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8 Responses to “Flaubert’s Kettle”

  1. Carol Peyser M.D. Says:

    I appreciate the warning about cliche in metaphor but I think it would be really sad to lose metaphors in writing. I would miss them terribly as a reader.

    • andyrossagency Says:

      Carol, I agree with you. But I see work by writers, some of them quite experienced, where they just seem smitten with it. Too much alliteration seems to go along with that as well.

  2. Dr. Joan Says:

    Well done! Great post!

  3. Day 25: This Is the End, or, Write Like It Really Happened | In the Garden of Eva Says:

    […] Flaubert’s Kettle […]

  4. J. M. Tompkins Says:

    Andy, I have nominated for you the WordPress Family Award: http://creativityuntamed.com/2013/07/04/wordpress-family-award/

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    Flaubert’s Kettle | Ask the Agent

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