operaman

Autonomous Body Parts

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I am having trouble understanding the rules regarding autonomous body parts. For example, "my eyes floated above the treetops as we passed," is obviously bad writing. Of course your eyes didn't pop out of your head and float above the trees. Sometimes these issues are not quite as obvious. For example, "I put my hand on her knee." Some might argue that the narrator picked up his severed hand, placed it on a person's knee, and just walked away. Of course, "I reached out and touched her knee," works better, but I've seen this done both ways.

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Firstly, it's a real pleasure to welcome a fellow grammatical pedant to the forums! We should form a secret society (shhh - first rule of grammar club is not to talk about about grammar club).

 

Secondly, you raise a very interesting question. I would say it's perfectly valid to use artistic license to create an image something like your first one, although personally, I tend to agree the word choice leaves something to be desired. I would probably have it as "my gaze floated above the treetops - which would be more accurate, although create a similar impression, I think.

 

On your second example, I much prefer your second version - it's far more engaging, but it's also doing a different job - I think. This said, I would go out of my way to avoid the first version regardless. To me, better writing would tell much more about the action by being more descriptive. We are rightly instructed by the WE crew that the words need to do as much work as possible (paraphrase).

 

"I patted her knee."   "I slapped her knee."   "I dropped my hand to her knee and squeezed" (implying the hand it still attached!!).

 

I'm not a great grammatical theorist or scholar - but I know what I like. For me, write as you feel, if it sounds weird on the re-read / edit, then change it. If it doesn't and no one complains, press on!

Edited by Robinski
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I quite like the idea of someone's eyes popping out to do a form of aerial recon. I might have ti write this into one of my writing exercises :)

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Ha ha, fair point. I think there was a prompt on Writing Excuses one time about taking a metaphorical expression and writing it as literal. I's be interested to read that story.

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On April 7, 2015 at 9:37 AM, Bort said:

I quite like the idea of someone's eyes popping out to do a form of aerial recon. I might have ti write this into one of my writing exercises :)

Eye of Kilrogg? 

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