For example, do you stumble over sentences like these?
- Their eyes locked across the room.
- His eyes zeroed in on the man lurking in the shadows.
- The man eyed the chocolate cake with the longing of a starving man.
In the first two sentences, I don’t picture actual eyes flying across a room to collide or zoom across space. I guess some people might and do according to the blog I read.
In the third, eye is being used as a verb, which it can be, and should cause no issues.
Some writers would substitute gaze for eyes in the first two sentences. And that’s the writing communities’ preferred word.
Sometimes, I will use gaze too. Other times I go with eyes. It depends on how the sentence reads. Consider this sentence:
The softest green eyes he’d ever seen rambled from his head down to his toes and back again.
I picture eye movement (something you’d see) traveling downward then back up. To substitute eyeballs which is actually what’s moving would sound ridiculous. Using gaze instead of eye would work but, in my opinion, decrease the subtle tension.
Eyes aren’t the only body part that roam.
Fingers fly: Her fingers flew to his cheeks.
Jaws drop: His jaw dropped to the floor.
Arms get shot: She shot her arm out to catch him.
Hands get thrown: He threw up his hands.
Faces fall: Her face fell.
Flying or roaming body parts don’t trouble me. If I read the character “swims through the crowd,” I don’t see splashing water. Or if someone writes “a lump of ice settled in her belly,” I don’t picture actual ice. Describing a character’s eyes with “pools of molten chocolate,” I don’t think he’s got Godiva eyeballs, just deep brown eyes?
A writer’s job is to provide a satisfying experience for the reader by creating a vivid movie in their head. One that combines the richness of language with remarkable stories. I believe being too literal can destroy the richness of language.
So, what’s your take on flying body parts? Do you cringe when you read those sentences? Are you pulled from the story?