Friday, 18 March 2011

Beware Autonomous Body Parts

"She was looking for the perfect kitchen table when her eyes fell on the Ikea Sniksig."

"His lips curled into a smile."

"Her legs had walked twenty miles that day."

Oh, those autonomous body parts. The trouble is, they sound so plausible when you write them, so risible when someone else reads them. "Did she pick up her eyes and put them back in?" they say. "And where was the rest of her body? Back home, reading a book by the fire I expect."

Eyes cause particular problems, forever dropping onto things or even flashing across rooms, conjuring up images of ocular streakers. Substitute 'gaze' if you must - her gaze dropped, his gaze flashed across the room - or use a verb - she stared at the floor, he glanced across the room. With the other body parts, it's better to use an active verb for the whole character - he smiled, she'd walked twenty miles that day.

It may seem a small point but, let's face it, you want readers to laugh at your intentional funny bits not the unintentional ones. The only autonomous body part allowed in fiction should be the grin on the face of the Cheshire Cat.

NEW!!! I've finally got round to organising some course dates....
How to WRITE a Novel: London 3rd May/Birmingham 7th May/
Oxford 8th May/Exeter 21st May/Bath 12th June
How to SELL a Novel: London 24th May/Exeter 4th June/

9 comments:

Karen said...

Ah yes, I've fallen prey to Falling Eyes Syndrome but think I've got it out of my system now!

I also wrote once about a character 'pushing her glasses up her nose.' Well I knew what I meant.

Debs Carr said...

These seem so obvious when you read your post, but I've written some horrors in the past. Probably still am now.

*giggling* at Karen pushing her glasses up her nose and had to read it twice to work out what was wrong with it. There's probably little hope for me.

Kate Kyle said...

Well, who hasn't fallen pray to Falling/disembodies Eyes syndrom?
(her face blushed)
;-)

yet another excellent post, which deserves to be shared, Sarah

Sarah Duncan said...

LOL! I must remember not to push my glasses up my nose in future. But so easily done...

womagwriter said...

He rolled his eyes towards the door and threw his arm over the back of the sofa.

Such an easy trap to fall into!

Lizzie said...

At the weekend I found: 'Greg's eyes slid from her face.'

No they didn't ...'Greg's gaze slid from her face.'

Thanks, Sarah – less egg on face now, as well as eyes!

Sarah Duncan said...

Did Greg's eyes leave a slimy trail? Gosh, that is such a gross image, much worse than the egg on face.

Josa Young said...

I can't bear it when everyone spends all their time twinkling at each other. How do you twinkle? Has anyone ever twinkled at you? If so,is there a number to call?

Lizzie said...

I agree with you, Josa. I've never understood twinkling either – it makes me think of fairy lights. I don't think I've ever twinkled or been twinkled at. But then I don't know how it would manifest itself.