Generating similes effortlessly like a Pro: A Style Transfer Approach for Simile Generation

Literary tropes, from poetry to stories, are at the crux of human imagination and communication. Figurative language such as a simile go beyond plain expressions to give readers new insights and inspirations. In this paper, we tackle the problem of simile generation. Generating a simile requires proper understanding for effective mapping of properties between two concepts. To this end, we first propose a method to automatically construct a parallel corpus by transforming a large number of similes collected from Reddit to their literal counterpart using structured common sense knowledge. We then propose to fine-tune a pretrained sequence to sequence model, BART~\cite{lewis2019bart}, on the literal-simile pairs to gain generalizability, so that we can generate novel similes given a literal sentence. Experiments show that our approach generates $88\%$ novel similes that do not share properties with the training data. Human evaluation on an independent set of literal statements shows that our model generates similes better than two literary experts \textit{37\%}\footnote{We average 32.6\% and 41.3\% for 2 humans.} of the times, and three baseline systems including a recent metaphor generation model \textit{71\%}\footnote{We average 82\% ,63\% and 68\% for three baselines.} of the times when compared pairwise.\footnote{The simile in the title is generated by our best model. Input: Generating similes effortlessly, output: Generating similes \textit{like a Pro}.} We also show how replacing literal sentences with similes from our best model in machine generated stories improves evocativeness and leads to better acceptance by human judges.

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