Writing Tip: Slaying Zombie Body Parts

I’ve long known something was slightly-off with my writing.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was an element to my style that was wrong.  A professional contact recently pointed it out to me:

My writing is filled with zombie body parts.

But I’m not writing a zombie novel.  I’m writing a contemporary gay erotic romance — with no supernatural elements, living, dead, or undead.

I’ve had a few confused stares over the term “zombie body parts,” so let me explain:

  • I’ve often written lines like, “His eyes scanned the page.” What’s the problem there?  His eyes didn’t scan the page, he scanned the page.
  • Or something like, “His hand reached out and grabbed Kyle’s arm.”  Same problem — it wasn’t his hand, rather, he reached out.

Once this was pointed out to me, it still took me a while to get it.  The body parts cannot be the ones doing the action, rather it is the character doing the action with the body part.  It needs to be properly attributed to the person and not the part.

The sometimes grey area is when you’re dealing with involuntary reactions — heartbeats, nausea, or as in the case of erotica gay fiction, raging erections.  (For all the ladies out there who are wondering, us guys don’t choose to have an erection.  That is one body part that acts totally on its own.)

Wow… this started as a writing tip and ended as a discussion on penises.  Hmm.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule (and that is not a penis pun).  I’ve seen zombie body parts in professionally published books and I’m sure you have too.  But the goal of good writing isn’t to be the same as everybody else.  The goal is to be the best you can be.

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