A bit of writing exercise, from the writing workshop I'm taking with Kit-Bacon Gressit. I have a story I've been playing with, about Clara, a female still-life artist—in Antwerp. This short piece is about one of her rivals:
With his collar up and his hands shoved in his pockets, Paulo rushed along the icy walk to the studio. Late again! Osais would soon remind him that being late was inexcusable to the Dutch. A prodigy in his home city of Florence, Paulo kept his own hours. Here in Antwerp, he had yet to prove himself worthy of the praise that won him a coveted place in the finest still life studio in Holland.
As he approached the front door, he peered through the soot-streaked panes and saw the hated Clara, only twelve years old, perched on her stool, painting tiny hairs on the legs of a beetle with her finest brush. Many apprentices thought she must be a witch, for the child painted insects which looked alive and ready to fly off her canvas!
He turned away from the window and once again felt the fat green worms of jealousy burrowing into his guts. How did she do it? Like magic she’d flick her hand over the canvas, over her flat paintings of lilies and silver vases and they’d spring to life. It was incomprehensible to him. His face flushed with anger and humiliation. He looked back through the window at his own easel just past hers and saw that his work, lauded by the Italians, was mediocre by comparison. Trembling, he spat into the snow and once again wished she was dead.
Here's something I learned from Kit—when you use a strong metaphor you can unintentionally slow/stop the reader. In order to keep the flow, in the text just before the strong metaphor, one should use another weaker, but complimentary metaphor or a simile. What this does is prepare the reader for the big one to come. So I revised the highlighted sentence (the one with the strong metaphor) to read:
He turned away from the window, shoulders hunched like an old crone, and once again felt the fat green worms of jealousy burrowing into his guts.
Or I could have used:
He turned away from the window, jaws in a vise-like clench, and once again felt the fat green worms of jealousy burrowing into his guts.
To be continued.......