Technically, the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is “yes.”
However exact technicality of motion and awkwardness of phrasing are two different things, and I’ve come across this one quite a bit lately. And as I do when I repeatedly come across something that bugs me, I wrote a blog post. Here’s my writing advice for the day.
The title of this post exemplifies what I like to call disembodied body part syndrome (DBS for the rest of this post). Here’s another example from a sentence that no longer exists in my thesis.
“A hand rested on Kylander’s arm.”
…to which my mentor commented “was it attached to something?”
“Natalie gripped Kylander’s arm.”
There we go. (The use of the stronger verb, gripped, is a discussion for another post).
But yes, avoid DBS. Give actions to people, not body parts. Otherwise, we end up with some of these interesting and potentially awkward images.
“His eyes rolled up to the ceiling.”
“Her arms flailed.”
-random, person-less arms flapping around in the breeze
“Her legs wrapped around his waist.”
-Oh man. This should be potentially sexy, but all I see is a set of legs with no person attached straddling some guy’s torso. *shudder*
So please, avoid DBS.
Now, back to “my fingers typed” for a moment. While technically correct, really I typed with my fingers. So to avoid awkwardness, the sentence should read “I typed.” “With my fingers” can be left off because that is the body part one would type with. However, if the person is typing with a different body part, say nose, mention that. It’s unusual and needs to be specified for the reader to get the picture.
Exceptions. As with everything else in writing, the rule is proved by its exception. (Or maybe that was the English language. Oh well.)
“Her eyes fluttered closed.”
“She fluttered her eyes closed.”
I don’t know about you, but the second one reads very awkwardly for me. You know when you’re so tired you can’t keep your eyes open? Your eyes just flutter closed seemingly of their own volition. This is a safe way to break the DBS rule if I’ve ever seen one.
“Her hair tangled in the wind.”
“She tangled her hair in the wind.”
Why would anyone do that intentionally? The only things that come to mind for me when I think about my hair getting tangled is pain and wasting time trying to untangle it. This is a decent way to break the DBS rule. Though, one might argue that “The wind tangled her hair” would be a better substitute.
There you have it. Disembodied body part syndrome. Now go forth and give people activities to perform.
Thanks for reading.
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-Kit ‘N Kabookle
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