Floating body parts
Floating body parts in books are disturbing. What are floating body parts? When a book says something like “Her eyes went to him,” the author is saying that the character’s eyes literally left her head and went across the room. Gross, right?
Unless the writer is a horror novelist, that’s probably not what she intends to say. She intends to say that the character looked at someone or something. Editors come across this error on a regular basis, and it’s something that authors can avoid in their writing, whether they have an editor or not.
The risk with floating body parts
Some people claim that the reader knows what they mean, and while that may be true, something can happen that no writer wants: the reader could be pulled out of the story. Even if the reader isn’t disgusted by the mental image of flying eyeballs, she might be distracted enough to lose focus, which is dangerous for the author. If a reader loses focus, she might stop reading.
To reduce the chance of a reader being pulled out of the story, keep body parts from floating. Her gaze can go to him, but her eyes cannot. As an alternative, she can look at him, glare at him, or pin him with a stare.
On a related note, body parts don’t act of their own volition. The character is in control. His hands don’t reach out to touch her; he reaches out to touch her. Her feet don’t take her down the path; she walks, meanders, or jogs down the path.
How to avoid floating body parts
To avoid floating body parts and body parts acting of their own volition, remember that the gaze goes and the character acts. If this type of mistake occurs in your writing, just use the “Find and Replace” feature to locate every occurrence and say what you really intend to say.