I received this email from a 13-year-old student yesterday morning:
Dear Ms. W,
I’ve been wondering about that sentence I showed you on Friday: “… my lips succumbed to the legions of vomit, who ripped apart the barricades, trampled over the barriers and shattered that fine line between the success and failure of my plan.” You said that vomit can’t be “a legion” but, can that part be a metaphor? I wanted it to analogize the vomit as an army crushing down on another army.
Here are my suggestions to improve this sentence. Simply leave out ‘of vomit’. We know what you’re talking about. Secondly, something’s not right with the last part—’and shattered . . .” It creates a mixed metaphor. You can’t start with a metaphor about vomit being an army and then end with an imaginary line. If you leave out that part of the sentence, the reader still understands what’s going on. It’s superfluous, really. We know that vomiting is ruining your plan.
One more thing to think about: In your vomit metaphor, I see your lips as the barricades, but what are the barriers? They can’t also be your lips. The metaphor has to relate piece by piece to the thing it is talking about. I think barricades and barriers just about the same thing? You might also want to consider words such as ‘surge’ or other examples of battle language. Not too many images in one sentence, though!
This is fun but sickening!
And that is why I teach middle school.