3. In urgent moments, there isn't time to think.
It's easy to get caught up describing the sweeping emotions of a first kiss, or the hot and heavy action of a first...well, anything else. And as writers, we sometimes lose ourselves in the art of turning those huge emotions and life-changing moments into metaphors, comparing them to the rushing of tides and the swell of music.
I did this in my manuscript. Not all the time, but certainly at moments when the action alone would have carried the reader through.
Here's the thing: Sometimes, there's no need to describe anger "ripping through her" or fear "shafting through her heart like an icicle." Sometimes the reader needs room to experience the emotion on his or her own; to react to the moment and just feel what the character is feeling.
No need to compare it to sunshine and happy bunnies; no need to make it melodramatic. Just let it happen.
"Simple is often more poignant," my editor, Victoria Curran, writes. "The ideal is for the writing to serve the story and not call attention to the writer, which is why I cut back on the metaphoric language in more urgent moments where it seemed wrong for characters to be self-aware and comparing something they were seeing or feeling to something else. In these moments, pacing is usually more important than fresh imagery."
Now in editing, whenever I come across what my editor calls a "movement of emotion"--happiness bubbled through her, rage punched a fist through his chest, confusion wafted a fog through his brain--or I start using similies or metaphors to describe some character's reaction, I ask myself, does the reader get this? Have I built up the character, conflict and tension enough so that they understand exactly what the character is feeling at that moment?