Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pad Shrug Clench

Who knew a simple question would unleash such passion? Followed by fear? Followed by downright silliness?

Here are some comments people (mostly writers) made when I asked the DorothyL group:

As a reader, do you find repetitious words and phrases in books drive you up a wall?

And as a writer, have you discovered you've fallen victim to using something that worked great one time over and over?

Here are some of the responses:

  • padded barefoot
  • shrugged shoulders (what other body part can be shrugged?) Well, darn it, I have some ideas. . . .
  • eyes following and bouncing around
  • body parts doing independent things . . . feet carried him, moved him, or otherwise shifted his position
  • frisson of fear, or frisson of delight
  • repetitive use of "gaze"
  • getting peeved over this literary device. It's called metonymy and it's meant to be used. I admit I kind of like this position . . .
  • shrugging in and out of garments
  • tossing of garments and footwear
  • clenched jaws, teeth and fists

The concept of floating body parts took on a life of its own.

So, I'm thinking that one of the things we want our early readers to watch for is overuse of our own pet words and phrases, and blatant, morbid positioning of body parts. Although I don't have a huge problem with some of these ("eyes cutting to the door", for example), I wouldn't want to use that description more than once in a manuscript.

CR: Urgent Care by CJ Lyons.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Yep, moderation is the key. I'm guilty of editing and accidentally adding in things I've used other places the first time through the manuscript.

    I heard one editor say he never wants to have someone "rake his fingers through his hair." Guess he saw that one too many times!

    But floating body parts never bothered me. They make natural sense to me--guess I'm not a literalist. As silly as it seems literally, we all know what's meant when someone lets their eyes rove about the room.

    I can't imagine an instance where I'd use "frisson"--too girly for me--and I pretty much refuse to use waft or wafting after reading it about 20 times in one book. Spoiled me forever!

  2. Note to self: Do a search for "waft."

    Thanks, Rich!