Metaphors are nonliteral comparisons used to describe something by comparing its qualities to something not normally comparable. They are among the most common tools in authors' toolboxes for adding poetry and variety to stories.
Similes are a specific type of metaphor that are constructed using "as" or "like." But many metaphors leave the comparison implicit.
Consider the following line, when Philip first sees Timothy on their liferaft:
He crawled over toward me. His face couldn't have been blacker, or his teeth whiter. They made an alabaster trench in his mouth, and his pink-purple lips peeled back over them like the meat of a conch shell.
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