Jilly: Too Many Dogs

Do your favorite authors have signature metaphors? Do you?

I’ve just finished working through my developmental edit on The Seeds of Power (yay!). Among many other smart observations and suggestions from my editor, Karen Dale Harris, I was surprised to find this comment: You use metaphors with dogs a lot. Do a search for “dog” and try to vary this.

My reaction: I do? Dogs? I don’t even have a dog. And no dog plays a significant part in this book. Really?

A search revealed the following:

  • The man was like a fighting dog. Once he sank his teeth into a problem, he never let go.
  • Her whole body came to attention, like a hunting dog on point.
  • Captain Randsen’s hackles rose like a well-trained fighting dog.
  • The prince was dressed and waiting. Soft boots, loose overshirt and trousers, and the ill-contained impatience of a dog who’d been promised a walk, despite the fact that the lad probably hadn’t gone to bed until the small hours.
  • Daire said nothing, but if he’d been a dog, his ears would have pricked up.
  • He put his enforced inactivity to good use, worrying at his mission like a dog with a sore paw.
  • Oriel had described her as a strong ruler, politically astute, fiercely protective of her family and their domain. Again, nothing to set the dogs howling.
  • She had the Hollin deep blue eyes and challenging stare, and she looked at him as though he’d thrown her pet lapdog to the hounds for a snack.

Yikes! Dogs, dogs, everywhere, and I hadn’t even noticed.

I’ve fixed it, but I wonder what else I write without realizing. And I’m even more convinced that quality editing is money well spent.

Do you, or your favorite authors, have a go-to metaphor? Or is it just me?

3 thoughts on “Jilly: Too Many Dogs

  1. I try to vary mine according to my POV character. In The Demon Always Wins, Belial’s metaphors had a KJV Old Testament feel; Dara’s tended to be medical. In The Demon’s in the Details Abaddon’s were technical; Keeffe’s were art-based.

    I noticed that all the ones you’ve listed above are from Kieran’s POV, none from Christal’s. If he’d been master-of-the-hounds, rather than a soldier, I’d argue you’d have been perfectly justified in keeping them.

    I think one of the reasons why The Demon Goes Hungry initially felt like it would be an easy write is because I knew both of my POV characters were pretty food-obsessed and food metaphors are really intuitive and available. It’s a lot tougher to make that work when you’re basing it on things that people aren’t familiar with.

  2. Yeah, that’s just you. 🙂

    I like to use amusing metaphors and similes in my lighthearted books, and sometimes I really struggle to find something that works. I’ve been known to type “SOMETHING” in the space where it should go when nothing comes to mind despite repeated tries. Also I do Google searches and thesaurus searches to see if anything sparks. No one has ever mentioned that I overuse a metaphorical idiom, but I’ll be on the lookout for it now. I bet I do. And I bet your Karen could find them!

  3. (-: Do we ever see that thing in ourselves? I think it takes an outsider (maybe a trained outsider?) to point those out.

    In the case of dogs, I think it can be fine. Humans have a long and varied relationship with canines, and we’ve got a ton of metaphors involving them. It can be part of your voice, or part of the voice of that series. Have you got a lot of loyalty issues in the story? Instinct vs. training issues? Issues about taming wild things or personalities? Then the dog may be a great vehicle for those things. In fact, you may decide you want to double down on the dog thing if you think it’s appropriate.

    But if you are sitting there thinking, “Why do I have so many dogs in this story???” then, yeah. You probably want to vary things a bit.

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