My seven year old daughter came home from school very excited to show me the new song and dance she learned. The song was “One-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater.” As a child, I had the record of the song and it always made me laugh, it also made me wonder where the creature found purple people. I looked at my daughter and asked her that very question.
“Addy, you’re so cute. I love your song and dance, but where did he find purple people?”
She stopped and looked at me. She didn’t question why I didn’t find fault with this amazing creature to begin with since obviously she’s used to my quirks. She laughed at me.
“Mom, the people aren’t purple, the bird is purple!”
Okay, now I never imagined this creature as a bird, but her imagination is her own, and not mine. I just imagined him as a big fat furry purple thing with wings. She sees him as a bird. She sang the song again with the proper movements while she sang.
“One-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eater.”
“Right Addy, he’s a one-eyed—“
“Purple people eater!”
“No Mom!” Addy sighed and rolled her eyes. She’s very dramatic for a seven year old. “He’s a flying…purple…people eater!”
“Okay, honey. Fine. He doesn’t eat purple people. Why do you think he’s a bird?” She left me there pondering that question and went to show daddy her new song and dance.
This exchange happens in books all the time. I recently read over a rough draft someone wrote. Okay, since she is usually the victim of my blogs, I will go ahead and admit that it was my sister, Suzette Vaughn.
While reading through her wonderful prose, and looking for misplaced commas and typos, I came across the following sentence:
He pushed his glasses up his nose.
I stopped reading immediately. He did what? Then I cracked up laughing because while reading the scene, totally into the dialogue between the characters, the lead man suddenly stops, takes his glasses off, and shoves them UP his nose! Through my fits of hysterical laughter, I managed to wake my husband up and reword the sentence. I suggested she write something more like: “He situated his glasses on the bridge of his nose” or “He slid his glasses into place on the bridge of his nose”.
The intended meaning is obvious, but while reading, the original words gave me a completely different meaning than what was intended. Just remember it is very important to have the correct wording and order of words while writing. You don’t really want your character to shove things up his nose do you?
Claire Collins, author of Fate and Destiny and Images of Betrayal, will be in the Greensboro, North Carolina area over Valentine’s Day for Second Wind Publishing’s Author Event.