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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wandering Body Parts - How Do They Move?

Read your books carefully and see if you find any "wandering body parts". What am I talking about?

Remember: body parts can't move on their own.
Her arms flung out to grab him.
His hand rubbed her back.
Her eyes swept across the room to the door.

A person has to DO the action using body parts; they can't DO anything on their own (unless you detach these parts and they have the ability to move on their own).

How many times have you read "wandering body parts" (WBP) sentences without thinking about them? I would guess many times. Your brain knows what the author is trying to say, and you just accept "moving parts"!

Pick up a book you're reading or have read, and really look at action sentences. Do body parts move on their own? Or, has the author remembered to "make" movements possible. For erotic books, WBP can be funny (or if you're so engrossed in the action you don't notice it) and make you wonder just how DOES sex happen between the characters!

I know that when I judge contest entries, I'm more aware of WBP...maybe because I'm reading with a different sense of WHY I'm reading. For books I choose to read, I may skip over WBP a number of times. But if it becomes clear that the hero/heroine have lots of disembodied parts moving all over the place, I usually take note and will either finish reading the book realizing this or decide to stop reading.

Do you have any WBP encounters to share? Have you (authors) been guilty of this?

photos:Flickr: Chris Piascik's photostream


E. Ayers said...

Guilty! And I knew what I was doing when I did it. We all know when a man throws his fist into the air with that big YES! He doesn't just raise his fist - he throws it up there. I fought and fought with that sentence and finally I gave up and let him throw his fist. It's almost an expression, much like cha-ching. And maybe it's an American expression but... So if the WBP cops want to ticket me, I'll go to court and fight it. :-)

Being I help new authors whenever I can, WBPs tend to be what I call beginners mistakes and are often the result of poor editing. But the strange thing was not one editor on that manuscript ever questioned the WBP sentence.

But as a reader, WBPs are usually funny or gross. Those eyes roaming the room, shooting across the table, or running up the wall - well, it's gross. And as for hands that do things, there was an old horror film maybe from the 1940's or early 50's about a disembodied hand. Probably laughable today with all the special effects, but enough to scare the beetle juice out of a child!

Too many people have WBPs books. But WBPs in a sex scene? Oh, I can just imagine. May I put in my request for a WBP? ;-) Thanks for the laughs!

Rose Anderson said...

Interesting post, Marianne. This was never on my mind until my second novel went through edits. I had something like "her eyes flew to his." The editor said, and I quote, "Eyes can't fly!!!" I honestly didn't know what she was getting at. I'd read that exact phrase several times in all sorts of books. You're right about knowing what the author is getting at so we gloss right over.

Marianne Stephens said...

I remember that movie...the creepy hand crawling around, causing havoc and chaos. Scared me!
That was a TRUE WBP.
Then there's The Crawling Eye...another WBP movie...but this particular eye was from another planet.

Cara Marsi said...

As a reader, before I started writing, I never noticed WBP's. It wasn't until I started writing and the two authors who were my critique partners and mentors made me change sentences with WBP's. That was the first I'd heard of it. Now, when I read, I'm very aware of WBP's.

Sandy said...

Moving body parts was one of the things I heard about as a beginner, Marianne.

Tina Donahue said...

LOL - I've done that - hell, I'm still doing it and have to catch myself. Great post, Marianne. :)

Paris said...

One of my first critique buddies had a phobia about this one. They never made it past one of my first drafts and I find myself "auto correcting" these days:)

jean hart stewart said...

Never particularly thought about this but I'm sure I've been guilty of it.. In fact I know I have and still do. I've got a very strict editor so am sure none get by. Good post, will auto-correct from now on..

vicki batman said...

Guilty? *raising hand* and I think my editor caught them too. It is hard to not be monotonous in our writing when using body parts.

Melissa Keir said...

I never see the body part but the person, so these often get by me. I wonder if we are seeing more of it in writing since our language has changed over time, especially with the use of technology.

Sounds like an interesting research project. :)

Thanks for sharing!

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