When I was a newer writer, I was told that I could strengthen my work by incorporating metaphors and similes. I wasn't sure how to accomplish this back then, as it was difficult to distinguish between the two forms. However, the more I read other authors' work, the more I recognized the utility of these literary aids and better appreciated the impact of a well-placed metaphor. Still, as I study methods to develop my own scenes and settings, my use of these tools can feel a bit forced.
Analogous not only in their comparative function but also in their effectiveness at building emotional impact, metaphors and similes deliver that little punch or nugget that drives home the salient sentiment an author wants to convey. While metaphors distinguish themselves with their use in place of something else as in, That one critical mistake was the nail in the coffin, a simile is a literary device that compares two unrelated items as in, He's as pale as a ghost. Both instruments broaden the impact of a single phrase so that it resonates and meaningfully lingers on the palate.
Good writers are stealthy with their seamless use of metaphors and similes. Judiciously chosen, they almost escape observation, yet they play to the reader's sensibilities without disruption to flow. I have noticed that if I stop to think about the emotional impact of an experience I'm writing about, I'm forced to dig a bit deeper to effectively convey that impact to others—which is where a good metaphor or simile would be handy. So I'm getting there.
While my attempts to incorporate metaphors into my writing still feel a bit contrived, I suspect that as I continue to encounter them in my readings, and as I contemplate how their use will enhance my work, I'll eventually have the same aha! moment I had with similes.
Whether "life is like a box of chocolates" or "life is a box of chocolates," the end result should be a much sweeter one!