1. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    Using "left", "right", etc.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by essential life, Aug 7, 2009.

    Let's say you write the following sentence in a story:

    "He grabbed her arm."

    Someone may ask "which arm". For the purposes of the story let's assume it doesn't matter.

    Nonetheless, is it kind of weird if you don't specify "left arm", "right arm", etc?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Unless its important for what happens next, then not really.
    I mean for instance:
    "He grabbed her left arm, and as she pulled away he caught hold of her wedding ring. It slipped from her finger too easily, like it had been removed one too many times before."
    Then it might matter. Otherwise,
    "He grabbed her arm and pulled her into a tight embrace." That sentence would be ruined if you said "left arm" instead.
     
  3. kehl
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    kehl Member

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    If it didn't matter which arm and you put in the specific arm, I'd wonder why you said the arm. In other words, I'd assume it was going to either come up later, or pertain to the plot somehow. It would just end up being a red herring of sorts for me. But I'm obsessive like that.
     
  4. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I agree with aaron. Unless it's important, there's no need to specify. I wouldn't even specify it in his example -- I think the wedding ring would reveal which arm was grabbed.

    In my writing, I specified "left hand" exactly once, but I had a good reason.

    The pastor lifted his left hand for the benediction. I reveal a few paragraphs later that his right hand was horribly scarred. If not for that fact, I could have simply said, "he lifted his hand for the benediction," and that would be that.

    Charlie
     
  5. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Precisely. Never write anything unless it needs to be there, and with things like that you're better off letting the readers' imaginations fill in the details.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The defense attorney at the trial might stop the witness and ask, "Which arm? And which hand did he grabe her arm with? Where on the arm did he grab her?"

    Most people don't think to ask these questions. They usually aren't important. The defense attorney above might be planning to show that thise details are inconsistent with other evidence, throwing doubt on the testimony.

    You run the same risk in overdescribing, You my very well introduce nagging discrepancies. But even worse is te fact that it's unnatural narrative. The best stories have a conversational tone to the narrative, not an autopsy room precision (The deceased exhibits four premortem one centimeter oval bruises on the anterior surface of the right bicep, apanning a nine centimeter arc, and one one point three centimeter bruise on the posterior bicep, aligned with the uppermost bruise on the anterior surface...)

    Only draw attention to it if it matters, and even then, you may want to let that depth of detail come out at a later time.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    again/still, listen to cog!

    and banzai...

    and all the others here who said not to over-explain/describe...
     
  8. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    That's interesting, thank you. One of my difficulties when I'm writing scenes is I'm not sure how much to describe things...or how long to go on for.
     

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