Roving Body Parts: Gesture Zombies

Halloween Week! Gesture Zombies! In effective critique groups writers find safe haven to try out their prose. Inevitably, the subject of roving body parts comes up. What’s your take? Should eyes drop, hands be thrown up and arms taken up the stairs?

Writing Tip for Today: I find fascinating differences between the “rule” some writing coaches insist is iron-clad, (Never describe roaming body parts) and the reality of published books. For instance, in The Help, by Katherine Stockett, I think I remember a line similar to, “Her eyes shot out the window.” Now those are some powerful eyes! In describing the body language so critical to the reader’s cinematic experience, we’ve all come to this dilemma: Should we go ahead and describe the zombie gesture and risk ridicule? How else can a writer say, “He threw up his hands?” I’ve seen, “He waved his arms in the air,” but that isn’t as precise as the gesture we interpret as “I give up” or “I’m frustrated or angry.” Here’s a list of roving body part gesture zombies and a suggested fix:

“She dropped her eyes” can be written as she dropped her gaze.

She saw him with fresh eyes. She saw him in a new light.

He took her arm up the stairs. They linked arms and went upstairs.

He threw up his hands? Maybe try not gnawing on them in the first place, or his hands shot up.

I’m sure you can think of more, many involving zombie eyes. This Halloween week, be on the lookout (I hope without dropping your own eyes) for these Gesture Zombies. Remember, if they make your critique group giggle, think what may happen to your reader.

Try This! Have you ever written a gesture zombie? If so, how did you remedy it? Do you have any other fix for this problem? If so, what is it?

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Roving Body Parts: Gesture Zombies

  1. As I wrote the post, I couldn’t stop laughing, either! But I’ll tell you–I read these things in published work very frequently. I really don’t know if you can always avoid it. Best to not take ourselves too seriously. Keep writing! ~Linda

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