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I bought a box of sushi, and sat at the round table beside me.

Opening the plastic container made me feel as though I was unlocking a treasure chest. I peeked inside to admired its content. Under the store's lamp, the mini-eggs glistened like pearls. The red, white, and orange fish slices resembled legendary jewels from the bottom of the sea. And the pieces of omelet were as smooth and shiny as gold bars. I couldn't stand another second, so I picked up my chopsticks and got started.

I ate the sushi in less than a minute.

As you can see, the paragraph starts comparing the action as opening a treasure chest. And the metaphors/similes that follow are all related to it (pearls, jewels, gold bars).

I also tried writing the analogies in different ways (using as, like, and resembled).

Will all these metaphors/similes be too much for the reader? Or are they OK since they're part of the same theme?

EDIT:

Will this sound better? (using looked like and just repeating like afterwards):

Opening the plastic container made me feel as though I were unlocking a treasure chest. I peeked inside to admired its content. Under the store's lamp, the mini-eggs looked like glistening pearls. The red, white, and orange fish slices like legendary jewels from the bottom of the sea. And the pieces of shining omelet like gold bars. I couldn't stand another second, so I picked up my chopsticks and got started.

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3 Answers 3

Oy. Chop, chop, chop. You establish the metaphor of the treasure chest, so you can just declare that A=B without the transitions.

The plastic container was a treasure chest of food. I peeked inside to admire its content. Under the store's lamp, the tiny eggs glistened like pearls. The red, white, and orange fish slices were edible jewels, the omelet smooth and shiny as a gold bar. I couldn't stand another second, so I picked up my chopsticks and got started.

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Ha, I was thinking of something like that, but I couldn't make put it into the page. I'll definitely ask for your editing services once I'm done with my novel (which I've already rewritten for the third time.) Only one question: why did you use a comma between jewels and the omelet? I always thought putting different ideas in different sentences made prose clearer? –  Alexandro Chen Dec 3 '13 at 15:02
1  
@AlexandroChen It's stylistic. Your image is a little dreamy, so the sentence fragment works with that feeling of being swept away by the raptures of the sushi. Please note that I did deliberately not use a verb for that clause, so it's leaning on the "to be" of the first clause (The fish slices were jewels and the omelet was shiny). –  Lauren Ipsum Dec 3 '13 at 16:59

The number of treasure-similies seems over-the-top to me, the prose equivalent of a scene from Tampopo. Maybe I would appreciate them better in the context of the rest of the story, or maybe I would appreciate them better if I liked sushi. :-)

Your second version is definitely wrong. More verbs needed.

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Hi: I laid out my notes to you per sentence from your revised paragraph.

Opening the plastic container made me feel as though I were unlocking a treasure chest. I peeked inside to admired its content.

  • To strengthen the connection between the object (container) and its symbol (chest), strip away as many mediating words as possible. "made me feel as though I were" waters down the connection between the box and the chest.

  • Opaque words cloud our appreciation of the metaphor. "plastic container" "its content" These phrases are flat and unspecific. It flattens and cheapens the metaphor of the treasure chest, too.

  • Also, "opening" and "unlocking" are not equivalent here. This makes me think that you may have been searching for another word so that you didn't repeat "opening". When this happens to me, I check to see if I have made a redundant comparison. "I peeked into the sushi box. It was like opening a treasure chest."

Under the store's lamp, the mini-eggs looked like glistening pearls.

  • As a filmmaker, I approach narration with a description of light, so when I see this sentence, I want to know more about the shop. Is it a cheap sushi shop? Is it truly a store, like a grocery store? Is there only one lamp in it or are there rows of fluorescents that hum and color everything green? Light is responsible for the pearls glistening. It is important to know the light.

  • "Mini-eggs" are miniature eggs? Or is this strict a sushi term? I'm not sure. It seems that sushi terminology would underscore the narrator's knowledge of the topic. If you could name the actual eggs, this would make your comparison more specific.

  • "looked like" here again, it's possible to prune away the mediating language. If you describe how the eggs look, then they indeed did "look like" something (in this case glistening pearls). "glistened like pearls" gets you out of having to use the redundant "looked like". These mediating words simply push the object and the symbol farther apart.

The red, white, and orange fish slices resembled legendary jewels from the bottom of the sea.

  • Here again, you are probably talking about maguro, hamachi and sake. As a reader, I want to know how much the narrator knows about the dish. Colored fish is not as much of a treasure as elusive fatty tuna. To use an extreme example: "The stuff was like legendary jewels." If we don't have a clear picture of the stuff, the comparison is one-sided. This is when you begin to feel that the comparison is "overwhelming" the thing being described.

  • "legendary jewels from the bottom of the sea" are you referring to a specific story about a treasure chest? Using "legendary" and "from the bottom of the sea" implies that we are supposed to be able to envision these jewels. If you are referencing mankind's "common knowledge" pile of jewels picture, then you aren't really describing it to us. Everyone has their own image of this. Either you need to describe it or the reader probably doesn't need to know it.

And the pieces of shining omelet like gold bars.

  • Hmm. Maybe a comparison mismatch. But remember, your extended comparison only has to jumpstart the reader's interest in knowing more about the object. Once you've convinced the reader that the sushi is delicious and desirable, they don't want gold bars, they want to eat. What if you zoomed in to describe the omelet, transitioning the reader from inedible treasure to purely edible ones?

  • More focus on the food as you go will balance the comparisons and get the reader ready to join the narrator in this unstoppable first bite...

I couldn't stand another second, so I picked up my chopsticks and got started.

Good luck with your story!

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