Floating Body parts-Oh No!

My title might confuse you. I’m not writing about a grisly crime, rather a common writing mistake. The first time an editor wrote floating body parts or FBP on my manuscript I had to ask for an explanation.

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A floating body part is when an attribute is given to a body part rather than the character.

This is one of the easiest traps to fall into. There are times it is used because it is a common idiom that everyone understands such as eyes rolled. Eyes don’t really roll but we all understand the meaning. We moved our eyes up then down to indicate disbelief or disgust. Often in our desire to create interesting scenes, we disconnect appendages.

An example: His eyes roamed her body. Really, his eyes walked across the room and walked all over her body. Only in a creepy thriller.

Instead: His gaze roamed her body.

You could show him watching her:

The swaying of her hips as she danced to the radio, made washing the dishing look sexy.

Let me give you a few more examples to consider.

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  • Before she realized it, her hand reached up and slapped him.

We know her hand didn’t have a mind of its own. It wasn’t disconnected from her body. We know we use our hands to slap. Unless we are using our foot (martial arts) a board or other object, the word slap indicates the use of our hand.

Instead: She slapped him hard, all her politeness vanished with his foul accusations.

Can you give me another option for slap?

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  • Fingers tapped the table in a nervous cadence. Cool sentence right? Except the fingers are not attached to a body here.

Instead: Andrew tapped a nervous cadence on the table. Again, we can assume it is his fingers unless we want to add an object. Andrew tapped a nervous cadence with his pencil. We visualize the pencil between his fingers.

How would you rewrite the finger reference?

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  • Her foot kicked him.

What else do we kick with?  Kick is a foot action or in the case of a horse, hoof movement.

Instead: She kicked him hard in the chin.

Give me a sentence using kick.

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  • His eyes stared at the scene before him.

Were his eyes working independently of the character’s brain?  The word stare refers to eyes.

The same way tears only come from our eyes and screams from our mouths. You don’t need to refer to the body part with the action. She screamed for help. Tears streamed down her face. (This too is cliché and might need a rewrite as well.)

Instead: He stared at the scene before him.

You could make this line far more interesting.

He stared at the horrific destruction.

Want to try reworking this one using another word for stare?

Floating body parts are an easy habit to fall into. It takes my critique partners pointing out the independent appendages before I catch my error. Best-selling authors may get away with floating body parts that are common clichés such as eyes rolled, arms fly up, and feet flew. But you want to work hard at avoiding them as much as possible. The better you get at description the less likely you will have floating body parts, unless you’re writing a crime drama. 😊

If you want to share with us how you rewrote the sentence examples or share a few of your own, please add them to the comments.

 

12 Fave Writing Craft Books from My Bookshelves

Every new writer is told over and over through conference speakers, blogs, articles and seasoned authors that they need to read craft books. Over the years, I bought several. Today I thought I’d share a portion of them with you. Some I’ve read cover to cover, others I’ve read specific chapters. Some have exercises with each chapter to help hands-on learners. Maybe my list will inspire you to grab one.

  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into Print by Renni Brown and Dave King

This book explains every area of fiction writing and includes exercises to complete. Doing the work after each chapter helps the reader gain a deeper understanding of writing fiction as they correct and rewrite the samples.

  • Write with Excellence 202: A light-hearted guide to the serious matter of writing well for Christian authors, editors and students by Joyce K. Ellis

I was so excited to hear Joyce was writing this book. I’d been following her grammar column in Christian Communicator for years.  This comprehensive easy to understand guide to grammar, punctuation, usage, style and so much more includes lessons to complete with the answer key in the back. Love it.

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  • Writing Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin

Step-by-step instruction and examples from successful Christian Romance writers. Lots of practical tests to use when analyzing your own work.

  • Writing a Break Out Novel: Inside advice for taking your fiction to the next level by Donald Maass

Maass is a master at digging deep and taking readers with him to gain a better understanding of novel writing. He is the guru of novel writing.

  • How to Write When Everything goes Wrong: A Practical Guide to Writing through tough times by Allie Pleiter

The title says it all. I found it to be a life saver during a difficult time.

  • The Chunky Method Handbook: Your step-by-step plan to Write that book even when life gets in the way by Allie Pleiter

The author developed a series of helpful worksheets. I was able to find out my writing chunk as in how many words I can write in the shortest amount of time. Then I was free to write in the bits of time at odd moments to get my novel finished. Everyone is different. This workbook can get you moving and remove the guilt that you don’t produce huge numbers of words like that other author.

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  • The Dance of Character & Plot by DiAnn Mills

An award-winning author shows you how to balance these two elements in your story. Practical and easy to understand.

  • Revising and Self-Editing for Publication: Techniques for transforming your first draft into a Novel that sells by James Scott Bell

My hubby has this book tagged with sticky notes.  Anything by James Scott Bell on craft is awesome. The heart of the book is to make the reader a better writer. Turn your good work into great work.

  • The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers and Set Up Your Novel for Success by Jeff Gerke

Jeff teaches you how to engage readers from word one and why the first fifty pages are the key to not only grabbing publisher’s attention but keeping the reader engaged.

 

  1. Fiction Writing Demystified: Techniques that will make you a more successful writer by Thomas B. Sawyer

He teaches novel writing from the prospective a screenwriter. Good stuff.

  1. The Everything Guide to Writing a Book Proposal: Inside advice on how to get your work published by Meg Schneider & Barbara Doyen

This is an older book, but the concepts shared are priceless. I have a few other proposal writing books in my library.  Tip: Always check the submission guidelines of the publisher you wish to submit to, then tailor your proposal accordingly.

  1. Connections Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers by Edie Melson

It explains things about social media I didn’t know I needed to know. There’s great stuff on building and writing a blog. You do know you need to start marketing before your book comes out? This is a great guide to get started.

Below are some bonus books that I love by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglist.

The Emotional Thesaurus Second Edition. These ladies have put together a comprehensive guide to writing various emotions. There are lots of additional writing tips sprinkled throughout the entries. When you’re stuck trying to figure out how to show an emotion these wonderful lists give you eternal, internal and synonyms of the emotions you are looking for. I also have The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Positive Trait Thesaurus.

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I love them so much I purchased the Second Edition of The Emotional Thesaurus and will be having a drawing for my copy of the first edition. It’s in fairly good shape. I don’t write in books or bend pages. If you’d like to be in the drawing, post a comment about a favorite craft book. If you’ve never read a craft book, then let me know in the comments and check out some of my suggestions. I’ll be talking about craft books on my shelves I’ve not-yet-read on Thursday and give you another opportunity to enter to win by commenting.  Yes, you can enter twice.

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So, tell me what is your favorite writing craft book?