Thursday, August 20, 2009

Picturing the scene: eyes falling out of their sockets; arms & legs followed! oh dear!

So! In posts below, I’ve talked about danged ole dangling participles, similes, and “tic” words.

This next one temporarily “bumps” me out of the story I’m reading because I notice it. Noticing something can be good or bad: I can notice something in the writing that makes me go, “Oh that’s good – wow!” or I can notice something that makes me go: “Oopsie!” Of course, I never say “oopsie” but I just like writing oopsie.

You do not want readers to notice too much. You want them engaged in the world of your characters and place and time and setting. The fewer things you have that “bump” your reader out of their dream-world of Your Story, the better. One of the most frequent things I hear about Tender Graces is: I had a hard time putting down your book and hated for it to end; but I read it fast and it ended too quickly! Do you know how that makes me feel as a writer? On top of the world! And why does my book move quickly? Why do readers want to keep reading? Why does it move quickly even if they do not want it to end? I hope because they are engaged in the world of my characters and story without too many "bumps."

While reading, this is something I see with my eyes inside their sockets where they belong. I hold the book in my hand that is attached to my arm that is attached to my shoulder that is attached to my body that is connected to my brain, which tells me what to do by using nerve endings; each of my body parts acts because I/my brain function asks or tells them too; they do not move on their own—I digress.

This, again, is a matter of thinking about that scene, how it “looks” (reads, is perceived) when the reader is full into your story and wants to stay there.

Here are some examples:

Analisa’s eyes fell on the table where the ring lay. They did! OMG! Get her to the doctor! Her eyes have fallen out of their sockets and landed onto the table….eeeeek!

Tim’s eyes followed Janna to the door. Wow, his eyes fell out of their sockets, and now they’re bouncing along … following her to the door.

Of course, everyone knows the writer doesn’t mean the eyes are literally falling on a table or following someone to the door, but, do you see what I’m pointing out? Imagine the scene.

Here are some other body parts:

Peter’s hand reached out and grabbed Jessica. His hand has a mind of its own!

Terri’s foot caressed Tom’s leg. Naughty foot, I wonder if Terri knows her foot is doing this!
What is a better way to describe these scenes where the Person is doing the action, not the body part? Even if you use a simple statement: Petter grabbed Jessica.

I want to emphasize that we all just do the best we can. As writers/authors, we are under stresses, deadlines, we have lives, we have family, and we are not perfect writing machines. What I do not want to do here is to make writers feel as if their manuscripts should be perfection. What I hope to do here is to get writers to think about their scenes/writing in new ways. I'm learning all the time; no one should stop learning or growing. Just as important, no one should stress themselves to grasp every little thing another writer tells them all in one gulp. See what speaks to you and go with it.

The more we do instinctively and naturally, the less time spent on "fixing" things that bump readers from our stories, even if they do not know why they are "bumped" - even if readers do not know why a story moves them along. We'll know.


Lazy Writer said...

Your posts this week have been so helpful! Thank you. In revising my ms, I have come across several places where I "bumped" the reader out of the story. That's one thing I definitely do not want to do.

Debbie said...

I am loving the pictures in my mind of body parts coming alive and acting of their own accord. Thank you for that!

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

LOL! Woman, you need some serious help! LOVE the new header!!!!!

Janna Qualman said...

Thank you! My biggest struggle, what gets me so tied up with my WIP, is showing vs. telling, and how to do it without losing my voice. Bah! But this is great.

*hands Tim's eyes back*

I LOVE your new header! And *snicker* I thought you had a little tattoo on your ankle... turns out it was a smear of something on my screen. LOL!

Strange Fiction said...

Note to self--Check ms for stray eyeballs and disjointed body parts. Ew!

Analisa said...

LOL So glad my eyes are back in my head!!!
Thanks again for the good advice.

When we write we never want someone to read the same paragraph over because they can't follow the story. Now if they read it over because they just can not believe what happened between Uncle Arville and Micah. OMGosh!!!! Then that is perfectly fine.

Stephanie Faris said...

Every now and then I find myself doing this. This is why I need a good critique group, which I'm working on finding. It's tough because you need the right fit...but I definitely watch the "eyes" thing. It's always "gaze."

Eryl Shields said...

Thank you for visiting my blog yesterday. It's late here so I really just came over to return the compliment but found myself reading, and reading, and reading, for about an hour. So much practical, concrete, advice, brilliant! I'll certainly come back regularly from now on.

Michelle said...


colbymarshall said...

First time I've seen your new header- LOVE IT!

Jessica said...

"Jessica's eyes fell to Peter's hand as she slapped the offending digits off her precious, married skin."


Great post. Noticing can be bad. Even beautiful writing can take someone out of a story if it doesn't fit the scene, imo. But if it's all part of the voice, then it adds.

Flying body parts have never bothered me. :-) Hope you never read my work. Snort!!!

I love your new header too. Very apt. :-)

Glynis said...

Oh lol I had visions whizzing around in my head with this post.