1. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Subtly describing eye colour

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Stammis, Mar 17, 2016.

    Hi, I am trying to convey that a person's eyes are blue, without explicitly saying so. Have I succeeded?

    Fendrael stared in confusion at the two of them, still sitting on the floor. Several questions raced through his mind, but he could but stare at the beauty that was Yve; the candle light made her eyes sparkle like sunlight reflected off the ocean. He looked away as their eyes met and he stood up with insecure legs.

    I was considering having the analogy be about her eye looking like sapphire, but, as I understand it, sapphire can be in other colours as well.

    It is quite important for my story that they eye colour
     
  2. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    There's nothing "blue" about that description. And why bother? Just say she has blue eyes. Why is it some people seem to think if you say something explicitly suddenly you're writing a laundry list? You can be interesting and clever, you can even do plot and metaphor stuff, saying something literally does not decide how you say it exactly.
     
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  3. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    What is your genre?

    Personally, I would steer clear of metaphors like "eyes sparkle like sunlight reflected off the ocean," unless your genre demands them. Also, I am not too sure that you want to use the word 'insecure' there.

    How about this?

    Fendrael stared in confusion at the two of them, still sitting on the floor. Several questions raced through his mind, but as he was drawn into Yve's azure gaze, all thoughts fled. He looked away quickly and a slight frown creased his face as he climbed to his feet. Almost stumbling, he took a deep breath before daring to look back at her. So blue . . .
     
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  4. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I concur with @Mike Kobernus , if the simile fits your genre and style, I think it's fine. It can come off somewhat flowery, but I wouldn't worry about that too much. It's a style question, some like it, some don't. However, I'm also not sure, as @Oscar Leigh mentioned, if the connotation to the color blue is strong enough. Oceans can be blue, green, gray, or blaze in red and orange depending on the weather, time of the day, and the ocean.

    Is this even the best place to describe her eye color? If it's so dark they need candle light, you probably couldn't tell what the color of her eyes is. Perhaps you could describe it when they're in daylight?

    You also repeat "stare" and "but," so I might work on those. I agree with Mike about "insecure legs." Sounds a bit off. Maybe they simply tremble?
     
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  5. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    I like that, should probably use inner monologues more and not just narration.

    I've also been trying to find a different term for "standing up" thanks for that! :)
     
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  6. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Maybe try "unstable legs" or "unsteady legs"? That's probably what you were going for, I feel.
     
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  7. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    You make a good point. I have been struggling with this chapter for a while. I think I need to look over the pacing.
     
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  8. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Just gotta say, I like those three words together. I'd be pulled from the story by them; but in a good way.
     
  9. croak3r
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    croak3r Member

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    Sounds cheesy to me, nobodies eyes do that and it just sounds like your trying to be overly creative in how you describe something so trivial. You could just say "He looked away as he met her blue eyes and he stood up with insecure legs." It does the same thing.
     
  10. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    There IS a point to the less is more school of thought, which I am generally a fan of, but the fantasy world the OP is developing relies on the eyes to be the marker of the individual's abilities. Not trivial at all. However, the original simile is a bit hackneyed, and for that reason alone should be avoided.
     
  11. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Sapphires can be different colors, but the one we most often think of is "blue":

    Fendrael stared in confusion at the two of them, still sitting on the floor. Several questions raced through his mind, but he couldn't tear his gaze away from the beauty that was Yve: the candlelight made her eyes sparkle like twin sapphires. He looked away as their eyes met, using his unsteady legs as an excuse to look down at the floor while he pushed himself up.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd just call them "blue", flat-out.

    Random example:

    Henry studied Yve. He'd always liked blue eyes, so that was one point in her favor, and so was the ultra-straight blond hair. But he never trusted perfectly manicured nails or makeup beyond a cheerful slash of lipstick--too much painted perfection gave him the uneasy feeling that he was keeping company with a Barbie doll. He'd always hated dolls, with those creepy painted eyes, or, worse, the glass ones that looked almost real, but not quite...

    "Henry?"

    He blinked and reached for his mug. "Yeah. Yeah. Could you repeat the question?"
     
  13. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    You know, I thought of something after I posted last night. KaTrian said it'd be too dark to see her eyes, and he's right (assuming they don't glow or something). Do you have to note their color right then? Is Henry going to see Yve later? If so, wait until they get into better lighting:

    Once they were out in the sunlight, Henry took a closer look at Yve. <insert more description here> Her eyes were a clear, deep blue.

    Simple, non-poetic, gets the point across, and yet still descriptive.
     
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  14. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    I abandoned the paragraph and used Mike Kobernus suggestion.

    Here is what I went with;

    Suddenly, there was a loud bang that made the house quiver. The Grand Master sat quietly on his chair while the both of them glanced nervously through the window. But, the thunder and the drumming rain upon the windows mesmerised them. They all sat quietly and listened while light flashed through the windows. The distance between the flashes and the sounds became broader and broader, by a few seconds at the time. The atmosphere was peaceful. Almost serene. Fendrael looked over at Yve in the dim light, her blond hair curled down to her waist. Her eyes glimmered by the light of the fire. So blue…
     
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  15. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    I find this a little jarring. Eyes may be blue, but gazes may not. Gazes may be penetrating, or steady, or condescending.

    If I were writing this, I think that the best I could get away with would be a short modifier, like "clear blue" or "pale blue" and let it go at that.
     
  16. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    It's called poetic license JLT.

    Why not show us all how it should be done?
     
  17. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    I've posted the first chapter on the workshop if you are interested. Haven't got any comments yet though. Would really love some input on the story as a whole.
     
  18. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    Yeah, I get that. It's still jarring to me, though. But I concede that I may not be your typical reader of this genre.
     
  19. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    I'll check out the whole chapter later, but I just wanted to comment on this paragraph. It could use a lot of expansion; if the atmosphere is serene, you should use longer sentences - short, choppy sentences are better for action, while longer ones flow better. Also: Tell, don't show. Frex:

    A sound like a collapsing cliff made the house shake. Both of them glanced nervously out the window, but the Grand Master sat quietly as the skies opened up and rain poured down incessantly. For a time, there was nothing but constant flashes of lightning, followed by resounding peals of thunder, but the light and sound show tapered off, leaving behind the drumming rain.

    <new paragraph> The constant susurrus was soothing, and Fendrael found himself lulled into a half-waking state; it was like the small pool of light and heat before the fireplace was all that existed in the world. A small sound nearby drew his gaze, and he turned to see Yve, her long blonde hair molten gold, watching him with a small smile.

    Her deep blue eyes twinkled with hidden laughter as she returned his gaze. "You were drooling."

    (Okay, so I took a few liberties, but I think you get the idea. The collapsing cliff, BTW, was my off-the-cuff attempt to describe those really loud peals of thunder that sound like a falling building.)
     
  20. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Hi, I am looking forward to your input!

    As for your suggestion, I don't particularly like it, but you do have a point. I did too much telling.

    Here is what I came up with;

    Suddenly, the house quivered. The Grand Master remained seated and stared vacantly into the wall while they glanced nervously at the window. Light flashed through it in intervals and illuminated the room, seconds at the time. As they sat quietly and listened, the distance between the flashes, and the crackling sounds of the heavens hitting the earth, became broader and broader; by a few seconds at the time.

    His mind was nowhere, yet everywhere and his body lost its tension; he slumped comfortably on the carpet. As another flash illuminated the room, for just a second, he glanced towards Yve. The dim light from the fire soon engulfed room and made her eyes glimmer. So blue….
     
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  21. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Edits in red.- Your helpful grammar Nazi. ;)
     
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  22. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    I don't really know how well the writing stands up and don't have much of an opinion on the use of possibly cliche descriptions. However, this is an easy fix.

    The candle light made her eyes sparkle like the ocean on a sunny day.

    There, now I get her eyes are blue, it might sound stupid, but the eyes are definitely blue. I don't get the original because the sunlight is the thing sparkling. Sunlight can't sparkle and while in physics technically the blue light is reflected while the other colors of light aren't, no one thinks of sunlight being blue because no one considering that half of the wavelengths have been absorbed by something off which it reflected.

    Or you can try my expert rendition of how to subtly describe someone's eyes as being blue.

    Fendrael stared in confusion at the two of them, still sitting on the floor. While several questions raced through his mind, he could only stare at the beauty that was Yve; Hitler would be pleased with her appearance.

    That was honestly the first way I thought of doing it when I read the title of the thread. I guess it just seems weird to have to subtly describe something that is apparent to anyone witnessing anything taking place. I guess leaving out information like that is something that can be done in writing but not in movies, so it might be a useful tool beneath the surface.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I really like that version. It's given me a really good idea of what's going on—and makes me want to keep reading. You've captured the atmosphere of the storm outside, the comfort within, and also given us a good idea that the POV character is attracted to Yve—without clonking us over the head with images of glinting jewelry.

    The most important skill writers should develop, in my opinion, is to keep readers immersed in their stories. If you start resorting to fancy images and comparisons these things can call attention to themselves, and become a distraction rather than an enhancement. Creating atmosphere and character should trump self-conscious wordery ...like azure eyes, sapphire eyes, etc.

    If a man/boy is attracted to a woman/girl, he may notice the colour of her eyes, but he probably won't start sapphiring, azureing, etc. What would Fenrael actually be thinking, looking at her? He is your POV character, so it's what HE thinks that you should portray. I think your example above captures that moment exactly as it would have happened.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
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  24. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Protip: Don't write when you're tired. It just turns to crap, like my submission above. I can see that I went a bit overboard on his impression of her; I was assuming he's got the hots for her, in some form, but I leaned too far in favor of flowery prose. :p

    Just one question: How does a house quiver? Is it made of Jello? Shaking would be better. And why's the Grand Master staring vacantly at the wall? The first version, where he sat quietly, was fine.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016

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