Frustrated Novelist No Good At Describing Hands

Top Headlines

Entertainment

Disney Unveils First Virgin Princess

LOS ANGELES—In an effort to better reflect the diverse backgrounds and experiences of their audience, Disney officials this week introduced Lily of Hazelberry, the company’s first virgin princess.

Your Horoscopes — Week Of June 23, 2015

ARIES: The universe, in all its wisdom, has a plan for everyone. Strangely, you’re supposed to be the nun who holds up a distributor cap and winks while the Nazis try to start their car.

Your Horoscopes — Week Of June 9, 2015

ARIES: Your death next week will seem in­explicable until people remember the ill-advised 1985 “cross your heart and hope to die” pledge you made to be best friends with Jenny Bosben.

New Music Festival Just Large Empty Field To Do Drugs In

Declaring the event a rousing success so far, organizers confirmed more than 45,000 people turned out Wednesday for the first annual Cavalcade Folk and Roots Festival, a four-day gathering that consists solely of a big empty field to do drugs in.

Director Seeking Relatively Unknown Actress For Next Affair

LOS ANGELES—Saying that he’s going for a certain look and will know it when he sees it, feature film director Peter Hastings, 52, confirmed to reporters Wednesday that he hopes to find a relatively unknown actress for his next extramarital affair.

Your Horoscopes — Week Of May 26, 2015

ARIES: You’re not sure if your new mousetrap is better, but due to its horrifying use of liquefying blades, the world will beat a path to your door out of sheer morbid curiosity.

Famous Television Finales

The award-winning AMC series Mad Men ended its seven-season run on Sunday night and drew critical acclaim for its final episode, a conclusion that many felt was poignant and satisfying. Here are some other memorable TV finales across the years

Plan For Future Still Involves Drumming For Lifehouse

SOUTH BEND, IN—Fifteen years after first envisioning the path he hoped his professional life would take, local man Brent Gibbs is still planning his future around being the drummer for Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Lifehouse, sources confi...

Fox Revives ‘X-Files’: What To Expect

After months of speculation, Fox has announced that it is bringing back its hit ’90s TV show The X-Files, about a team of FBI special agents investigating unsolved cases about strange and paranormal phenomena, for at least six new episodes...

Your Horoscopes — Week Of March 24, 2015

ARIES: Your belief that everything happens for a reason may remain unshaken in the face of personal tragedy, but you'll certainly be upset when you find out the reason is "to get the Zodiac some chicks." 

Your Horoscopes — Week Of March 10, 2015

ARIES: As long as people don't look too long and the lights aren't too bright, no one will be able to see where they tried to fix your face from what will happen to it this coming Thursday. 

Nation Delighted As Many Famous People In Same Room Together

HOLLYWOOD—Expressing their immense personal satisfaction at the gathering appearing on their television screens, millions of Americans across the country were reportedly delighted Sunday night upon seeing many famous people in the same room together...

Half Of Hollywood Test Group Screened Placebo Film

LOS ANGELES—Saying the methodology helps them ensure unbiased results in their marketing research, studio executives at Paramount Pictures confirmed that during a Hollywood test screening this week they showed half of all theatergoers a placebo film...

Your Horoscopes — Week Of January 6, 2015

ARIES: One of the worst moments of a person's life is when they finally realize that they're mortal and are going to die, especially when it's a person like you who only sees the cement truck at the last second.

A Timeline Of Upcoming Superhero Movies

Following the massive successes of the Spider-Man, Batman, Avengers, and X-Men franchises, studios Marvel and DC Entertainment have announced as many as 40 upcoming superhero movies to be released over the next six years ...

Sesame Street’s 45th Anniversary: A Look Back

Sesame Street, the long-running PBS children’s television show starring a cast of Jim Henson muppets who teach children basic learning concepts and introduce them to difficult issues, turns 45 this week.

TV Show Under Fire For Depicting Murder

LOS ANGELES—In what is being described as perhaps the most shocking and distasteful moment in broadcast history, the popular primetime television show Criminal Minds is facing heavy criticism today for airing an episode that depicted the act ...
End Of Section
  • More News
Up Next
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage

Family

Report: Dad Wants To Show You Where Fuse Box Is

YOUR LOCATION—Noting that it’s important to be prepared in case of emergencies but it’s also a good thing to know in general, your dad announced today that he wants to show you where the fuse box is.

Small Business

Frustrated Novelist No Good At Describing Hands

Milligan, who once described a character’s hand as a “flesh-spatula that holds things.”
Milligan, who once described a character’s hand as a “flesh-spatula that holds things.”

GLOUCESTER, MA—Admitting that he has “absolutely no idea how other authors do it,” novelist Edward Milligan, 46, told reporters Tuesday that he’s just no good at all when it comes to describing people’s hands in his writing.

“I’m fine with most details, but for some reason hands completely and utterly elude me,” said Milligan, who recently described a character’s hands as “dangling around like big, meaty spiders.” “I’ll often create an entirely fleshed-out character, and write easily at length about their face, their personality, their voice, their hopes, dreams, and desires, but then I try to describe their damn hands and it ruins the whole story.”

Milligan, whose novella Grand Rapids was reportedly rejected by publishers due partly to a passage in which the protagonist’s hand “trundled and shimmered on the top section of his wrist,” revealed that while he is able to portray realistic trees, emotions, and most body parts, hands consistently give him trouble.

Click to enlarge

Calling the way he represented the proportions of his characters’ hands “way off,” Milligan said he is especially bad at delineating human fingers, which the writer once portrayed as “flabby pink-tan logs, but a bendy kind of log.”

Milligan noted that he can envision how hands should look and behave in his mind, but always messes up when translating the imagery into words.

“Sometimes I hide the hands by saying characters had really long sleeves or having them stand behind tables, but that starts to feel awkward,” said Milligan, adding that no matter how much he practices writing about hands, “they always come out weird.” “I’ve also tried to avoid doing hand descriptions altogether, but you can only put a few amputees in your stories before people start to notice.”

“I just want to say that a character has, you know, these big...twisty things next to her wrists,” he added. “See? I can’t do it. I fucking suck at it.”

Milligan said that his problem was made more frustrating by the fact that he believes some of his writing, including the following excerpt from his unfinished novel Old Juniper, is “actually pretty good if you ignore the parts about hands”:

They moved closer now, and their shadows stretched across the sand, twin silhouettes cut from the same canvas. She laid her finger hub across his tentative, dandelion hands and then slowly let that glorious gripping machine tighten like a mighty vise until at last she could feel that their spirits, too, were entwined, just like their touching-organs were, except emotionally instead of physically.

Readers of Milligan’s work agreed that the passages concerning hands tended to be especially distracting.

“I enjoy Edward’s writing, but it’s true the hands can really take you out of it,” said reader Evan Forster, 39, who mentioned he was jarred by a sentence calling someone’s hands “bony ball-sticks that grab hard.” “I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose, because everything else seems normal. It doesn’t make sense when he tries to gets around it by saying that people’s hands are ‘hand-like in their stature and bearing.’ What does that even mean?”

“Then he tries to shoehorn in something like a guy who’s always moving his hands so fast no one can see what they look like,” Forster added. “It’s clear what he’s doing.”

The exasperated 46-year-old novelist admitted that in some cases—including a passage in which a couple walks along a path “arm-foot in arm-foot”—he isn’t even sure what he was going for in the first place.

“Listen to this: ‘What seemed like a thousand tiny hands (though in truth there were only two) extended from his arms. They were sparsely knuckled, punctuated only by the occasional thumb or forefinger jutting up like a lighthouse from a handy sea,’” said Milligan, quoting from a draft of the second chapter of his novel. “God, that’s fucking terrible. It doesn’t even sound like I’m talking about hands.”

Milligan confirmed that he recently sent an email to author Philip Roth with the subject line, “How do you do hands?” but has not received a response.

Next Story