1. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,346
    Likes Received:
    3,092

    eyes

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by 123456789, Mar 7, 2013.

    I notice a lot (dare I say inordinate amount) of attention/description being paid to character's eyes in the writing I see here. I am curious about how others feel.

    I am referring both to the description of the MC's eyes, as well as to the description of the eyes of surrounding characters. In real life, is that really the first thing you notice, someone's eyes? Personally, it doesn't work for me, but I admit I might be in the minority here. Just wondering.
     
  2. Xatron
    Offline

    Xatron Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2013
    Messages:
    576
    Likes Received:
    6
    When you talk to someone you look at their shoes first? Since i was taught to look people in the eye when talking to them, i usually notice the eyes first. In my writing i don't overemphasize them though. The reader can imagine it himself.
     
  3. Snicket
    Offline

    Snicket Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2013
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Fork in the Road
    Well I tend to describe eyes because I like weird eye colors. Grays and metallic looking eyes.
     
  4. David K. Thomasson
    Offline

    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2013
    Messages:
    341
    Likes Received:
    122
    Location:
    Lynchburg, Virginia
    content removed by author
     
  5. Youniquee
    Offline

    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    733
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    Under your bed.
    If they have no importance, just stating the colour will do imo. Unless someone had really unique eyes that stand out, that probably wouldn't be the first thing I notice about them.
     
  6. Phoenix Hikari
    Offline

    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    6
    Can't say I am pleased with your choice of words but I had no idea that eyes are so unnoticeable. Usually, in real life I look at the eyes of someone I am talking to or their body movement. Humans do that naturally and without thinking.

    I am not sure if you are referring to the description of a character's eyes color and shape or the emotions that other characters read in them. It is important for character's to notice changes in the facial movements or eye movements of other character's eyes when they are talking to them? Or do you usually look away when you talk to someone?
     
  7. SuperVenom
    Offline

    SuperVenom Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    72
    Location:
    South Wales
    The eyes are the window to the soul. A lot can be told via them. Add a few crows feet we have age, add red (normally evil). Cold blue distant. We all see eyes in everyday life and we unconsciously judge peoples characters by them. So why wouldn't our characters? I suppose if someone read the fingers of people they meet, when they write a book their characters are looking at the hands more.
     
  8. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,346
    Likes Received:
    3,092
    Face to face, IF their eyes are interesting enough, I might consciously notice them. Of course I look people in the eye, but if you asked me to remember someone's color, 9/10 times I'm going to be stuck.

    Now if that person is not directly facing me, and standing further than a few feet away, forget about it.

    I'm not going to cite anyone's work here. That's awful. But I can try to recreate similar sentences.

    In the case of describing an MC's eyes, one might see a sentence like... "Her bright blue eyes scanned the surroundings."

    In the case of describing another character's eyes, you might find something like, "He saw the emerald, green eyes of Tasha Hikamomo sparkling in the distance."


    I am going to cite another person's work here I read this morning, as an example of what I think is better character description. "A hulking man who looked as if he might recently have been playing college football pushed his way through the lab door."

    The size of a person is not a superficial quality. It matters. It affects how other people perceive, how quickly you are noticed. On an instinctual level, it provides an indicator of your threat level. It is also really easy to notice the size of a person.

    What consequence do the color of someone's eyes really have? Of course it has its place. If I am star struck, I might notice her/ his eyes. If I am stuck in a mind numbing conversation, I might start judging their eyes. I just feel like there are more interesting ways to physically describe someone in many case, and was surprised by how many times eye color is used in description.
     
  9. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,346
    Likes Received:
    3,092
    No offense by the word amateur meant. It simply means unpublished. Might be the greatest work ever written, but it is on a forum for people working on their writing. My apologies if this came off offensive.
     
  10. Phoenix Hikari
    Offline

    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    6
    I used a sentence similar to this one in the chapter I posted few days ago. Just because someone put in their writings the color of their MC it doesn't mean that it's just there to say 'Oh look, his eyes are BLUE!!!'
    Sometimes eye color is important if later the writer needs to draw the attention to the character's eyes changing color. My MC's eyes are very bright blue but later when he learns few abilities his eyes change color to red when he's focusing on distant things or when he's looking in the dark. Sometimes IT IS important to know what color the eye is.

    PS: I wasn't offended, I just think you might need to choose better words. some people might not like it.
     
  11. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Most of my references to a character's eyes are either to paint a picture of a striking countenance - and eyes are often an important component of that - or to reflect some emotional reaction that, face to face, the character might be trying to mask. For example:

     
    TDFuhringer likes this.
  12. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,346
    Likes Received:
    3,092
    All excellent points.

    "Crow's feet", "evil eyes,""dark circles." All awesome descriptions that would captivate me. "Blue", "green", "hazel," on the other hand....



    Its very possible we unconsciously judge people by their eyes. I can believe that. But wouldn't the key word in that case be unconscious?
     
  13. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,346
    Likes Received:
    3,092
    I do that too. It's more of the strict attention to eye color that perturbs me, but I do sometimes wonder if I use eye expressions too much in my own works.
     
  14. SuperVenom
    Offline

    SuperVenom Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    72
    Location:
    South Wales
    True unconscious, but in a way don't we as the writer act as a narrator to both conscious and unconscious actions.

    plus i agree eye colour not too important unless they are conveying emotion. I like using blue to depict normally silent brooding charaters, and so forth.
     
  15. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    Out of curiosity, I just went back through several ms and checked the eye descriptions. Yup. In every single one I mention that people have eyes! Beyond that, I may never reference a characters eyes, eye color, emotional impressions.

    Yes. I do, more often than not, mention the color of the MC's eyes. This may occur in the first chapter, the second, or even the fifth! It's not a focal point in who the character is and so it is just generally a throw-away, an "Oh, btw, this is what he looks like", kind of comment.

    That being said, I do believe a person's eyes can serve as an emotional barometer and I, personally, tend to pay a great deal of attention to those pretty little barometers.
     
  16. NellaFantasia
    Offline

    NellaFantasia Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2013
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    0
    I agree. I think some writers pay too much attention to details of characters that wouldn't normally be focused on. And frankly, readers aren't going to care about the colors of the eyes either unless it's important to the storyline or oddly unique.

    I talked to a few strangers this morning when I went grocery shopping and to a restaurant. I couldn't tell you their eye color if my life depended on it. I could, however, tell you whether they were young or old, short or tall, thin or fat, etc.
     
  17. David K. Thomasson
    Offline

    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2013
    Messages:
    341
    Likes Received:
    122
    Location:
    Lynchburg, Virginia
    content removed by author
     
  18. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,807
    Likes Received:
    7,327
    Location:
    Scotland
    Oooh, this is an interesting thread. I worry sometimes that I'm one of those writers who refers to eyes more often than I should. I do think that constantly reminding readers what color your characters' eyes are can certainly be annoying. I suppose any device that is used too often in a piece can be dreadfully irritating, and if you're noticing the frequency, the writers are probably mentioning eyes too often.

    On one page of my recent edit, I refer to eyes three times:

    Jeno removed his elbow from the table. His eyes flicked against Jozsi's as he did so - a sharply meaningful contact, rapid and tactile as the brush of a wingtip. Eat - the eyes commmanded. Now.

    then two paragraphs later:

    Just as he lifted the spoon to his mouth, Jozsi happened to glance at Papa. Papa had not even picked up his own spoon yet. He still sat with both hands in his lap, watching Jozsi with quietly speculative eyes. Not Jeno - him - In the heartstopping instant before Jozsi dropped his own eyes back to his plate, he knew Papa had seen through Jeno's lie - and recognised his own complicity in it as well.

    My characters drink a lot of coffee too! I've certainly had to cut their intake during my edits. Maybe I use eyes as a communicative device far too often as well. None of my readers who have kindly offered critiques have mentioned eyes being a problem, but I'll certainly keep an eye out in future. Urrkkk...
     
  19. musicjess2
    Offline

    musicjess2 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2013
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    United States, WI
    Personally, I'm a big face/body language person, and I'm always trying to read people that way. I think people's eyes and set of their tell a lot about what is going on internally and how they feel about different situations. Plus, some eyes look really cool. Not entirely sure why, but I've always enjoyed the mention of them. Or at least, in certain scenes when it is appropriate, like when looking into a lover's eyes at an important moment, or sharing an exchange/making eye contact. Once characters in a story know each other better, I think the way you describe shared eye contact could add a lot or almost connect them in a way that you couldn't completely with words. Just like a squeeze of the hand could mean a lot at certain points of a story, etc.
     
  20. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,346
    Likes Received:
    3,092
    Thanks for the examples, Dave. I would say that her descriptions are simply very detailed, rather than disproportionately focused on eyes.

    By inordinate amount, I mean exactly like in the sentences I wrote a few posts up, where the reader's attention is drawn more or less exclusively to eyes.
     
  21. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    I've mentioned my MC's eye color a grand total of twice in 100k words, and both were in the same chapter. It's not something really to obsess over.
     
  22. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Stay in character, and that includes the narrator "character". Some observers will notice eyes right off. Some won't.

    How many times have you heard of a woman who's pissed off at her boyfriend/spouse because he doesn't notice details. Not just eye color, although that is very common, but what color dress she's wearing, whether she has lipstick on, what she has been talking to you about for the last hour. But he knows her bra size!

    Temper your description not only by what the character CAM observe, but also by what he or she WILL notice at that moment.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    The OP question, how important are the eyes, brought to mind all those images of faces where only the eyes are blocked out to hide the person'a identity. Being the evidence based thinker that I am, that led me to look further. I found this interesting study:

    Analysis of methods of providing anonymity in facial photographs; a randomised controlled study.
    I think eyes come into a story because they can communicate. So do faces, lips, eyebrows, you can even wrinkle your nose at something. :)
     
  24. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I agree with you about the eyes as well as "amateur" part. In some way we are all amateurs because we aren't making a living from this yet, but the fact is, there's a lot of really bad novice writing posted on his site and it is difficult to read. Bad/unnecessary descriptions of the physical appearance are only the tip of the iceberg, some stuff that's posted hasn't even been checked for spelling. I noticed that the more work a text needs, the more defensive the author is about it. It's just how it is. It's just a stage in writing everyone goes through.
     
  25. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,346
    Likes Received:
    3,092
    Jazzabel, I believe we see...eye to eye on this, however I removed the above quoted word from OP, as my last wish is to offend anyone.

    I decided to post this question as food for thought, for myself and others. It so happened that this morning I browsed three different stories on here. Two of the three had, what I'm going to have to call banal description of eye color. Don't forget, this is only the first page or two of a work. The third described a burly lead researcher without using eyes, and I was very pleased with how well that description fit for the story. Describing eye color can absolutely work, but as many of you pointed out (thanks Ginger for that study and Dave for those text examples), there are numerous ways to describe a character (probably Cogito's proposed method is the sounded). Just food for thought. Guys, girls, thanks for your thoughtful answers!
     

Share This Page