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Article on Writing
Don't Let Characters Do Impossible Things with their Eyes
© 2001 Laraine Anne Barker

I'm sure you've read sentences like the following:

She dropped her eyes to the floor.
(Whoops! Hope they didn't get broken. But why remove them from their sockets in the first place?)

I raised my eyes to the ceiling.
(Hey, eyes, I've changed my mind. Come back down! I can't see without you.)

His eyes bored into mine.
(Excruciating for me; probably not much better for him.)

He cast his eyes over the water.
(All right! All right! No more smart aleck comments. I promise!)

Her eyes fell from his.

He screwed up his eyes.

Her eyes fell on something half-hidden.

Her eyes clung to his.

His eyes were riveted on...

Her eyes followed him.

She tore her eyes from his (or from anything else).

Well, I think you got the point long before you came to the end of those samples. At one time writers could get away with something that creates strange images in a reader's mind if taken literally. However, these days most editors don't like characters doing impossible things with their eyes and expect writers to mean EXACTLY what they write. So go through your manuscript for the word "eyes" and make sure you haven't written anything similar to the above. You might think it doesn't matter--you've seen things like this so many times in published books that it must be all right--but to an eagle-eyed editor it looks dated at best, amateurish at worst. Besides, you don't want your writing to be anything less than the best, do you?

Characters can also be made to do weird or impossible things with other parts of their anatomy:

Amy took her head out of the oven.
(Anyone for roast human head? Oh, sorry; Amy was actually CLEANING the oven?)

Jeremy crossed his left leg over his right and planted both feet firmly together.
(Perhaps Jeremy is supposed to be an incredibly supple acrobat.)

Here's another sentence structure that creates weird images in a reader's mind:

He had an older sister who wore weird clothes, a shiny new bicycle and a large hairy dog.

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© L A Barker Enterprises

Laraine Anne Barker writes fantasy for young people. Visit her web site at Fantasy for Children & Young Adults for FREE stories and novel excerpts. Sign up for the NOVELLA OF THE MONTH CLUB, absolutely FREE!

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