When you look at
this picture, what do you see? Do you see a picture of a beautiful, but shy,
younger woman or do you see the old hag-like woman?
Sometimes the
words in the sentences we write are similar to this illusion. The writer may
mean something totally different, but the reader’s mind paints another picture.
Same words; different mindset.
For example: The
man’s eyes remained fixed on the table.
Clearly, the
author did not mean to paint the picture of a man’s eyes laying on the table,
but some readers will see that image clearly. Other readers will gloss right
over it and realize that the man was staring at the table.
So, in order to
avoid painting the wrong picture in a reader’s mind, the words should be chosen
carefully. The man’s gaze remained fixed on the table shows a much clearer picture.
Most often, the wrong picture is painted in words when an author has a character’s body part doing something alone. This error has been dubbed the use of “floating body parts.” For example: His hand reached out and grabbed her.
Now, I once saw a terrifying movie about a man’s hand that had been cut off and it sought revenged on its own, but most often this is not what an author intends. The better form of the sentence is to allow the person to do the action. The reader will know that he grabbed her with his hand: He reached out and grabbed her.
If an author
keeps in mind that a body part can do nothing without the person it is attached
to, these funny or sometimes horrifying word pictures can be eliminated from
prose.
Do you have any
examples you’d like to share? Feel free to do so. Doing so, will help other
authors to realize that the picture they wish to paint with their words isn’t
the picture the reader might see.

Happy editing.

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