“And the wrench is still there. What would it be like to operate with a professional team? I wouldn’t know that’s for sure. Give me more suction.”
Eyes rolled around the room.
I wrote this a few years ago and never gave it a second thought. But when I read it over yesterday, trying to determine if it was suitable for a contest entry, all I could see was eyeballs rolling around the room like they were on little roller skates. Now that’s a floating body part (FBP)!
I think you know what I was trying to say – everyone in the room rolled their eyes at the Doctors comment on professionalism. But that’s not what I wrote. There is nothing wrong with using the phrase rolled her eyes, as long as it’s connected to a person.
“Trying not to laugh, she rolled her eyes at his antics.”
We all know what that means. A writer could get super technical and write, “Trying not to laugh, she looked up and down quickly, at his antics.” That’s ridiculous. I wrote the sentence and I don’t know what it means! The sentence doesn’t qualify as a FBP because we understand the idiom. And the alternate, about looking up and down, will stop the story.
How can you tell which eye rolling is a FBP? In the second sentence those eyes are attached to a she. In my original sentence — Eyes rolled around the room – those eyes are rolling free!
Floating body parts are easy to spot. Every time a body part is mentioned it should be attached to a body. Referring to any body part without the stability of a whole body behind it, sets it afloat. Let’s look at a few.
He dropped his hands. My literal, visual brain sees a man standing, and his hands drop off his arms. What could you write that conveys the same feeling of frustration or giving up? His shoulders drooped. Or He slumped in the chair.
She slammed on the brakes and her arm shot out. This is a cause and effect situation. As adults, nearly all of us have reached out without thinking to protect our passenger. But the way this is written it sounds like the brakes caused her arm to shoot. She slammed the brake pedal and instinctively her arm went across the empty passenger seat. Because I used the word slammed, speed is suggested and we don’t need words like shot or flew.
There is a fine line between nabbing all apparent FBPs and recognizing an idiom. The determining factor should be – does it stop the story? If not, then carry on. If yes, then rephrase it.
Karen Saari loves to play with words, whether it’s writing or editing. She is a Christian, wife, mother and grandmother. Karen is currently working on her BA in English and Creative Writing. She writes contemporary Christian women’s fiction, and is working on a new book – The Neighbor’s Club.
An avid reader, she also sews and knits and is learning to draw and paint with watercolors. Yard sales and thrift stores are her favorite shopping places, besides craft stores. She lives with her husband, Robert in the mountains of northern California. They enjoy traveling the Oregon coast and photography.
Karen blogs at http://karensaari.com