A well-placed simile can go a long way to describing something. Use “like nails on a chalkboard” as an example. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. But, using a clichéd simile can sometimes turn a reader off. Here are a few examples:
Clean as a whistle
Cool as a cucumber
Flat as a pancake
Tough as nails
White as snow
How many times have you heard those before? When I read something not original, my eyes glaze over faster than a Dunkin donut.
On the other hand, if a writer uses a simile that provides the same amount of description, but with an original idea, I’m interested. When I read something fresh, I’m like a six year old watching cartoons (see? Much better than “on the edge of my seat.”).
If the simile reveals something about the plot or character, even better. I once used “wrinkled like the clothes in the back of my drawer” to describe a disheveled character’s grandmother’s forehead. It squeezes in some characterization in a new way.
So go write like a college student the night before a paper is due and come up with some similes as unique as whoever invented the Snuggie.