On “nervousness” metaphor

A recent blogger wrote on a critique of a newly written metaphor that went something like …. “swooping, sharp pain in the stomach ….” The critique was one of not understanding and that the critiquer did “not get nervous.” The defense reaction of the writer was about trying to “show” and not just “tell” what was the sensation of the nervousness. The reference to “show” and “not just tell” is important.  And this is a lovely example and story from that group and about the critique’s reaction. The showing is so important that it cannot be emphasized enough. How much one writer uses this concept may be the art involved with the craft. The creative use of the language comes in here now. This is where new metaphors come from, from the writer’s imagination. And if these get repeated they become old cliches. As all of us remember the nervousness cliche – “butterflies in the tummy” [or whatever one calls their stomach], but none of us would use it because now it isn’t original. But, you might have a character speaking that – about butterflies.

The critiquer’s comment, while it may be true about not feeling nervous, is a quipping one, and a copout because most people get nervous about something, if not many things. What I am not sure about is if the nervousness in one’s stomach actually becomes “sharp pain” in most people. And that may be the real point the critiquer needed to make. “Swooping” is interesting, because there is familiar sensing of stomach sensations when initiating a free fall or acceleration in rollercoaster, or traveling high speed over a low rise in the road. The sense of fear and dread is another type of emotion, though. It has many anxiety symptoms that can affect the digestive tract that range from vomiting to the other extreme of colon gas to uncontrolled colon in a state of fear. In the middle of one’s torso, yes swooping is good and different. What animals swoop? Birds swoop. Birds have wings like butterflies. A hawk would be too big.  Hummingbirds might swoop and fit. Or a ………… well, that’s my take on this. Use some kind of swooping bird or swooping snakes. Snakes in one’s stomach would make me nervous.

1 thought on “On “nervousness” metaphor

  1. I think the ‘show don’t tell’ advice has ruined many a good story.

    Some of my most horrible romance-book lines about eyebrows lifting or piercing stares were written because I was trying to “show” not tell. I realized after reading a few VERY popular authors (example Stephen King) that there is a healthy amount of telling in every novel and decided to throw the advice out. (Every time I start worrying about it, my writing tanks.)

    I think better advice is to be exact and detailed in describing exactly what is happening in the story, .

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