Yes, it’s true: sometimes words can be – as Gollum would put it – ‘tricksy’, and very often it’s those little physical quirks which can cause the most problems.
Consider this conundrum which I heard on TV one evening:
‘My reflection in the mirror looked back at me like a bad smell.’
Huh?? There is a definite aroma of mixed metaphor with that one. Or rather, mixed simile (for the difference check out my earlier post ‘Shall I compare thee….? To start with, what exactly does a bad smell look like? Even if we manage to sort that one out, what’s the story with it looking back at you? Scary!
So please do take care that your hero is not accidentally foraying into the realm of physical impossibilities as he or she goes about their narrative business. In other words, keep an eye on what your protagonist’s eyes are doing. Are they following people across the street, rolling down mountains, sweeping across rooms or dropping to floors?
The human body is indeed a thing of wonder and it’s amazing what eyes actually can do, but, generally speaking, they tend to do it from the comfort of a person’s eye sockets rather than indulging in some perambulation of their own quite distinct from the rest of the body. Besides all that running, dropping and rolling sounds rather painful and damaging to the anatomical part in question.
Happily, a protagonist’s gaze or stare, on the other hand, can quite easily follow, roll, run or sweep across anything you wish.
The same rules apply to protagonists’ heads and other generally fixed parts of the body, by the way.
Of course if your hero is an animated cartoon character where anything goes, the above may not apply!
For other glitches in the prose matrix, see my earlier post ‘The Glitch in the Matrix 1: Dealing with Danglers‘.