To follow up on last week’s post, this truism doesn’t favor any particular body part, really. And most of these aren’t as humorous as “her eyes drifted around the room and eventually lit in the corner on a barrel of nails.” But some of them are pretty good.
Basically, any time any body part is the subject of a sentence, you probably need to recast the sentence.
At least in the example that got me started last week (The baron … raked his eyes across everyone at the table) the author had the human, the baron, actually performing the action.
Had the writer written, “The baron’s eyes raked across everyone at the table” it would have been doubly awkward.
Um, ’cause eyes can’t do that. The baron wouldn’t do it, but his eyes can’t do it.
Only in certain, very specific circumstances can eyes do anything at all on their own.
If eyes ever legitimately “shoot across the room,” their owner better have been slapped in the back of the head with great force a split second earlier. Just sayin’.
So don’t write stuff like
Close to the window, his ears heard an eerie sound.
Her nose (or her palms or her forehead) pressed up against the glass.
Her hands (or hips or butt or forearm) leaned on the rail of the ship.
His hand crept along the back of the seat and eventually made it to her shoulder.
As her left hand held the forestock firmly, her right hand worked the lever on the 30-30.
As my hands ran past my ears, I felt something in my ear lobes.
Tossing my hand across the couch’s back with studied casualness, I attempted to initiate the usual subtle encircling movement but to no avail.
Chloe’s head went up and down.
Bill’s face broke into a grin that wouldn’t stop.
His eyes roamed across the room, stopping at a table with no empty chairs.
His face turned deadly silent.
His long muscular legs effortlessly loped after the bus.
Her eyes slowly climbed the tree.
Her legs raced frantically down the street.
“A place called Valentino’s,” he said as his eyes touched hers.
And as a bonus, one of my favorite oddities, although this doesn’t fit the “human parts don’t have human traits” category. This is from an email I received a few years ago: “I hate to miss your class, but I’m leaving town unexpectedly tomorrow.”
You get the idea.
‘Til next time, happy writing.