What Do You Do About Dueling Body Parts?

The Marriage Murders by Bobbye Terry

Welcome back guest columnist, Bobbye Terry, as she uncovers runaway body parts in our novels and what we can do about them? How do you catch and edit your runaway body parts?!



The Perilous Penis

And other body parts that literally run away with the show

Have you ever been reading a book and suddenly the hero’s genitals seem to take control of the scene? With a super-human effort, he emerges not as hero, superman at his finest, but horny-man, his huge angry shaft standing at attention? Does he bludgeon the heroine instead of having sex with her?

What about his eyes? Are they flying towards her? Is his head spinning out of control? Does he suddenly have his head falling toward the floor? Are his feet flying out from under him? Is his heart beating out of his chest? This man needs an exorcist, not a lover.

You see, dear writers and readers, these are falling or dueling body parts, and if anything takes a person out of a story, it’s haunted appendages and organs.

The writer needs to get a grip. Even if there is a quick change in the hero’s or heroine’s reactions to something said or happening, there are better ways of showing it than sending body parts to take care of the problem.

For instance, the heart beats faster, palms sweat, the skin becomes flushed, a gaze immediately changes to a point in the room. Gaze or glance is so much better to eyes flying to a spot.

Just be cognizant of this somewhat annoying habit and do what I say not as I do. I have caught myself doing the same thing and had to self-correct. The fact that we, as readers, catch it and chuckle, should tell us that it isn’t an effective method of describing action. Describe what’s actually happening and what the character is feeling instead of using “shorthand” that we have learned from many years of bad habits from writers who have come before us.

Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency, made this statement in her blog February 25, 2011 post, http://tinyurl.com/6ao33rx:

“One of the funniest lines I ever read in a manuscript was a hero who allowed ‘his eyes to run around the room as he looked for a way out.’ I had this vision of an alien species whose eyeballs popped out, dropped to the floor, sprouted legs and took off running around the room like a spider on speed.”

Whenever you start to write similar words, remember the image of a spider crawling up to you like one of those mechanical things in Minority Report, and happy writing!


Bobbye Terry writes mystery/suspense, romance, fantasies and dystopian fiction. The Marriage Murders, Bobbye’s Book 2 in the Briny Bay Mysteries series, was just released. Bobbye and Linda Campbell, writing as Terry Campbell, have a new cozy mystery short story collection, Slam Sisters of Serendipity, that released through Eternal Press.  For more about Bobbye, visit her at www.BobbyeTerry-MysteryHappens.com and www.BobbyeTerryRomance.com.


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  • Alica says:

    I thankfully, have a critique paretner who catched those. After this post I’ll be catching a lot more!

  • Bobbye Terry says:

    You’re welcome, Alica!

  • It took me some time, but I got the knack of noticing “wandering body parts” and now edit them OUT of my books. I can’t help laughing when I read sentences with them in my own work or when critiquing.
    We get so caught up in a scene, sometimes our mind doesn’t work as fast as our hands type…and those body parts become entities of their own!

  • I enjoyed this; however, I expected it to be a discussion about the conflict between a man’s mind and his “other thinking body part.” Your points are well taken.


  • Beth Barany says:

    Bobbye, THanks for another fun article. One of my friends has eyes moving throughout the room, following people! LOL

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