9/28/2013

Dear Editor: There's a Name For That, Too

#2 – Metonymy
Good morning and welcome back to my place. *sips coffee* Help yourself, make yourself at home, just don't dip a wet spoon in the sugar bowl, okay?
I'm talking about editing lately, giving things some serious thought. When I got back my first round of edits, I was shocked as all get out to discover that I really didn't know how to write as well as I thought I did.
At least, that's what it looked like, with comments all down the margins and changes throughout the document.  I confess, I seriously thought about throwing it all in. Then I girded my loins so to speak, and waded in.
Turned out a lot of those changes were typos that had escaped my notice, and my beta reader's notice as well.
A lot of the comments and suggestions made perfect sense, and I proceeded with the feeling that I was making positive changes in my story that would improve the reading experience for everyone. Then I hit this one.
            His eyes roamed around the room, restlessly seeking distraction from the unwanted sexual awareness.
It was tagged IBP.
I scratched my head. Then I went to my support group of people, the ones who talk sense into you when you're being all crazy…and I asked them.
Independently Moving Body Part.
There was much back and forthing as they told me what this meant.
Silly me.  It never occurred to me that ANYONE would think that my hero's eyes popped out of his head and started wandering around the room looking at things whilst his body lounged still on the sofa.
I didn't like it, because something told me that your overtly naïve assertion that people would think such a thing was er… disingenuous.
But I changed all the roaming eyes to gazes, which then led me to wondering how many times I used the word gaze…and that was an entirely different rabbit hole.

www.lexcovato.com 

It's a long way down the line, and I've edited a lot of books since then, and read thousands more – mainstream and ebooks, classics and contemporary works, literary and genre fiction.
And I think its time we were honest about that IBP.
It's a little trick of rhetoric developed way back in the early days of writing by the ancient Greeks called metonymy. That means that you're substituting one thing for something closely associated with it, whether for ease of comprehension or flow, or what have you.
So, rather than say 75 times in my ms that someone's gaze did something? Sometimes I might prefer to say that their eyes did it.
That doesn't mean I'm writing zombie fiction.
After all, when Shakespeare wrote, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears"' no one took that as stage direction to pelt the actor with actual ears, did they?

Readers are clever enough to understand figurative language. I trust them not to picture eyes wandering about the room on little stalks. If there are readers who are sensitive to that structure, then perhaps they might conclude that my writing style isn't for them. 

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