Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's just plain oogy!

Your cranky editor (as opposed to your cranky mommy/lighthearted-romance writer) here, with a message to writers:

Repeat after me. PEOPLE control their body parts. Independently moving body parts belong in a horror movie, NOT in a romance/erotica!

Remember Thing, from the Addams Family? Thing was a hand that lived in a box and performed menial tasks for the family in the days before remote controls and Roomba robots. He frequently turns up in books I'm editing/critiquing.

"His hand crept up her thigh..."
"Her hand pushed the fingers through her hair..."

And so forth. No, I'm not exaggerating, and yes, some writers don't even attach possessive pronouns to their body parts but use the  article, "the". This is even worse. The hand defined by "the" really isn't attached to anyone or used by anyone except...itself. (Ewwww! Ewww, ewww, eeeeewwww!) That's worse than a spider. Really. Imagine seeing that crawl out from under your bed?

And, really...does it sound romantic or erotic, to you?

Even worse (yes, it does get worse), some writers give their characters independently moving eyes. Apparently, their people's optical orbs have the ability to pop out of their heads and do things. other eyes across the room. (Actually...I'd like to see this, myself.) Here's one of my personal favorite oogies: "His eyes crawled over  her lush breasts."

If I had eyes crawling over my (not so lush) breasts, I'd send those babies rolling. Imagine how cold and slimy they'd feel? It reminds me of the sheep's eye I had the unfortunate privilege of dissecting in seventh grade. (Thanks to the ingenuity of seventh grade boys, I learned a sheep's pupil, removed from it's squishy casing, bounces better than a Super Ball. Ba-boing!)

But it gets worse, because I edit erotica as well as romance, and there are some amazing independently moving body parts in those stories. Unfortunately, I can't share the best of them with you as I try to maintain at least a PG rating. However...I can share this (and you can use your imagination to create other scenarios: His tongue slid into her...ear.

Do you suppose after a session of lovemaking, his (or should I say, "the") eyes, tongue and hand lay on the pillow beside her head?


The solution to these creepy-crawly body parts is simple. First of all, use your possessive pronouns! Her eyes, her tongue, his hand. Never, never use "the" (or--and I shudder to say this--"a"). Second, make your characters move their own parts:

Example: She put her hand on his shoulder.
He brushed his fingers against her cheek.
He pressed his lips to hers, letting his tongue wander into her mouth...

Okay, okay. Calm down. Yes, that has the potential to become an independently roving tongue. BUT, I've acknowledged that my character (he) has made a choice about the actions of his tongue and has giving it permission to go play with her tongue. Presumably, then, he'll be able to call it back into his mouth as necessary and it won't go off to invade other people's orifices without invitation.

That would be...just plain oogy.

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