I often find myself writing stuff like this:

Eri's eyes scanned the room, stopping at the bookshelf. She went over to it and, as if she were searching for a secret passage, she examined each of the books.

It came all the way from the top of the mountain and ended right in the tiny pond behind me. I went over to the stream and immersed my fingers in it. The current pushed them vigorously, with all the force of a living being.

Would it'd been better if I've written them like this?

Eri's eyes scanned the room, paused abruptly, and went over to the bookshelf.

I went over and immersed my fingers in the stream.

I wonder if the first examples are product of some bad writing practice. Or I'm just thinking too much?


I see no problem with the constructions you ask about, aside from what DragonSlayer mentions, that using a “proper word” instead of a pronoun may add interest.

What I see as problems in the two examples are reference to eyes and fingers as if they are independent entities. The first example implies that Eri stands there blindly as her eyes wander around the room and stop at the bookshelf. Then Eri goes over to the bookshelf, presumably retrieving her eyes when she gets there. (Your rewrite has Eri's eyes going over to the bookshelf by themselves, without Eri going along.) In the second example, phrases “immersed my fingers in it” and “The current pushed them vigorously” talk about your fingers almost as if they are separate from you, and the water washes them on down the stream.

If maintaining the same sense, I'd rewrite sort of as below. (However, changing the sense of the passages might be a good thing to do; I think examining each book on a bookshelf isn't an ordinary way of looking for a secret passage, and it isn't clear to me that the particular water being discussed came clear from the top – surely some water from lower elevations joined it on its way – and it strikes me as unrealistic to expect a flow of water to form a pool and stop there; eventually the pool will overflow, and the water continue on its way).

Eri surveyed the room, then turned to the bookshelf. As if searching for a secret passage, she examined each book.

This water had flowed down from the top of the mountain, down into the tiny pond behind me. I knelt by the stream and dipped in my hand. The current pushed vigorously, with all the force of a living being.


I don't feel describing character actions in this nature is a problem unless you are doing so frequently to the point that you find yourself doing these so often that they popup far more than you would like as you review your own writing, then in that case you could attempt to add more describing/showing what you are leading the characters(and the reader) to. I do think being more descriptive into exactly what IT is, and even the way in which the character is associating with it.

An example would be:

As Eri's eyes scanned the room, they paused abruptly and shifted to the bookshelf

More powerful or descriptive verbiage will help the reader feel like you are showing and not telling.

  • 1
    Oy. "Her eyes paused abruptly"? That sounds like they have agency independent of her head. Oct 23 '13 at 1:03
  • I suppose it does! What I was trying to get across was that by adding more action-orientated verbs to what the character is doing the transition of the character focusing on that bookshelf seems less dry.
    – JBeck
    Oct 23 '13 at 2:19

I took a creative writing class and my teacher said that using "it" instead of a proper word to describe what you are looking at or touching is "boring." and in all honesty it is, i would recommend using the second set of examples. As for bad practice i'm not sure, I'm sure it works sometimes, but I would try to avoid it.


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