A writer needs to express ideas, create moods, develop characters, introduce conflicts, entertain the reader, etc., and the best way of doing this is through the use of some of the tools of language. There are well over 100 tools used by writers to accomplish these feats, but two of the most common are simile and metaphor. A simile compares items or ideas by using the adverbs "like" or "as." A metaphor is a comparison that is implied by using one object as another (without the use of "like" or "as").
Here is an example that demonstrates the difference between the two:
The truth was like a bad taste on his tongue. This is a simile--it uses the word "like" to
compare truth and bad taste on his tongue.
Each blade of grass was a tiny bayonet pointed firmly at our bare feet. This is a metaphor--it
implies that the blades of grass hurt their feet by comparing them to tiny bayonets, and it
accomplishes this without using the words "like" or "as."
I think it's pretty clear that saying things with simile or metaphor makes the whole idea much more fun to read. The author could have said, He was upset about telling the truth. Or, The grass was really pointy and hurt our feet. But isn't it more fun to provide the reader with something a little more creative? It's definitely more fun to read because it stimulates the brain by causing the reader to imagine exactly how it feels without being told in a more plain--and boring--manner.
OK, so you've heard these two words before, but you can never remember which is which, right? Here's a simple way to keep them straight. Simile has an "l" in it (for "like") and metaphor doesn't. So if the word "like" appears in a comparison, it's a simile.
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