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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Independent Body Parts

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Independent Body Parts...This topic always reminds me of the comedy/horror film Idle Hands. The main character's right hand has a murderous mind of its own.

Are you allowing your characters' body parts to act independently?

Let's look at this issue from the POV character's perspective first.
When choosing a Point-of-View, we show the story/scene through that character's senses. We write what she sees, not that she saw it. Remember Showing vs. Telling? If she hears birds singing, we describe what she heard (Song sparrows warbled a lively tune outside her window.) rather than telling (She heard birds singing outside her window.).

The same is true of her actions. As the writer, you're the POV character. She reached for the letter opener. Not--Her fingers moved toward the letter opener. Her fingers become independent from the rest of her body by giving them the action.

For the non-POV characters, the rule applies differently.
If the POV character is watching someone else's action, you can use body parts. Her fingers closed around the letter opener. Your POV character is describing what he's seeing. Remember to avoid filter words like watched, saw, heard, etc. that tell instead of show. "He watched her fingers close around the letter opener" distances the reader from the characters.

A comparison--Think about which version draws you closer to the POV character and into the story.
Version #1
***Jane paced to the long table, careful not to look directly at her target. Feigning a polite smile, she tried for her friendliest tone. "Are you finished eating, Laird Callum?"
***"Aye, Lady Jane. 'Twas a hearty stew." His words were likely as close to a thank you as she'd get from her warden.
***The tiny key still rested on the bench next to him, the same place she'd spotted it when she'd delivered his supper. She only had to slip it into her skirt pocket as she gathered the remains of his evening meal.
***Lifting the bread board, she tipped it ever so slightly, sending the knife clattering to the floor beneath his seat. "Oh, dear! Forgive my clumsiness!"
***Intent on her plan, she set her load on the bench to retrieve not only the knife but her chance for escape. The key was scant inches from her possession. She reached for it.
***He grunted and turned toward her, his wide palm covering her target a moment before she could grab it. "Dunna take me for a fool, lass. A woman who sends a seductive smile to her captor is always up ta no good."

Version #2
***Jane's feet carried her to the long table as she carefully avoided looking at her target. Her lips curved upward and she tried for her friendliest tone. "Are you finished eating, Laird Callum?"
***"Aye, Lady Jane. 'Twas a hearty stew." His words were likely as close to a thank you as she'd get from her warden.
***The tiny key still rested on the bench next to him, the same place her eyes had spotted it when she'd delivered his supper. Her hand only had to slip it into her skirt pocket as she gathered the remains of his evening meal.
***Lifting the bread board, she tipped it ever so slightly, sending the knife clattering to the floor beneath his seat. "Oh, dear! Forgive my clumsiness!"
***Intent on her plan, she set her load on the bench to retrieve not only the knife but her chance for escape. The key was scant inches from her possession. Her fingers reached for it.
***He grunted and turned toward her, his wide palm covering her target a moment before she could grab it. "Dunna take me for a fool, lass. A woman who sends a seductive smile to her captor is always up ta no good."

Did you catch all five instances of independent body parts in the second version? By adding her feet, lips, eyes, hand, and fingers as being active by themselves, I changed from third-person to omniscient POV. I was no longer showing the story.

POV covers a lot of territory, doesn't it?

Next week, we'll look at Setting!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

4 comments:

  1. A lot to take in and I haven't time now but I loved the line about her fingers moving toward the letter opener! LOL. It sounds like a horror movie!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for another great writing tip!

    ReplyDelete