Descriptive Writing/Showing not telling

by Tommy
(atlanta, GA, US)

Question: I am someone who uses lots of similes, metaphors, personifications and other literary devices when I write a description. Does doing this help or detract from the story? For example if I describe a person it may read like this;

Behind the desk was a man with a book open. His legs wrapped around each other like vines as they clung to the desk. This eyes were glued to the book in his lap exposing a patch on his head that was eating away at the hair. He looked up pushing what looked like magnify glasses over his nose. The sweater he wore was badly knitted and had seen too many Christmas's and not enough days in the washer.

Answer: Regarding the example you give, my feeling is that they are distracting. One metaphor, designed to convey something important about the character, is generally better than several metaphors. But in this case, I think you would be better to simply use specific details to create an impression.

The vine image is particularly distracting. It is striking, but (in the brief passage here) serves no useful purpose.

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