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  1. Greg Wollf

    Greg Wollf New Member

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    Bright Eyes? Dark Eyes? Eyes that flash in the moonlight?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Greg Wollf, Sep 30, 2017.

    Every once and a while I read about a character's eyes being bright or dark but I don't actually know what this means. I interpret dark eyes to mean that they are a dark brown, almost black color. Does bright then mean that they are blue or green or that they stand out or that the character is excited?

    Then there are descriptions about how someone's dark eyes flash in the moonlight / torchlight / lantern light. I assume this means that their eyes reflected the light for a second or that those observing see that the character is suddenly angry.

    It's strange, I've always assumed I knew what these phrases meant but I've never actually asked a writer how what they take the phrases to mean or how they should be used properly.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I think about these questions a lot. In my current WIP, the eyes of the main character are an important aspect of the character's communication because English is his second language. So, in this case, using precise language is extra important.

    I do think a lot of times some of the things you mention can be up to the reader's imagination, though.

    Context is everything.

    Dark eyes I think of as an indefinable, deep color, yes, dark brown to black. They could be mysterious, cold, or romantically soulful, depending on the surrounding context.

    Bright eyes I interpret as the expression even more than their color. A sad person wouldn't have bright eyes. The Shirley Temple film was called Bright Eyes because of her cheerful disposition.

    ETA: There's also the Big Romantic Moment context of, "His eyes shone brightly."(Used a lot in romance novels.)

    When someone's eyes flash in the moonlight or lantern light, in that context, I interpret that to mean a reflection.

    However, as you mention, eyes can also flash with anger, as my MC's eyes do right before he loses his temper. Or they can flash "with indignation" as his eyes also have done.

    My MC's eyes are azure blue. At one point to set the surrounding context to highlight the degree of his anger about something, in addition to the usual anger description, I added that his eyes "turned steely blue." (My sister has the sort of blue eyes that change color with her mood, so I stole this from hers.)

    If the writer does a good job setting the scene and the emotions with the other words, the meaning is clear to the reader. At least, that's what I strive for.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  3. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    Bright eyes I've always interpreted as big glazed eyes that are alive with wonder.
     
  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Eyes can shine with unshed tears, as well. So someone in a big emotional moment might have shiny eyes.

    Overall, though, I think it's a sort of pathetic fallacy, and, really, too often a cliche. Not saying I've never used any of the terms, but they're not great writing, I wouldn't say.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I see bright eyes as being a mood indicator, and often a sarcastic or whimsical one.

    Jane looked up, bright-eyed and smiling. "We can't wait to start checking the carpet for cat hair!"
     
  6. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    We learn a new word every day.

    Well, we don't, but I certainly did today.
     
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  7. Radrook

    Radrook Banned Contributor

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    I have heard it used to contrast green, blue, or hazel eyes as opposed to dark brown or almost black. But in literature it can be used to convey positive emotions of hope, happiness, joy, determination, regardless of the actual eye color. The same with dark eyes, they can be used to convey evil intent, brooding, scheming thoughts, etc...

    Here is an interesting article on eye color:
    http://writingright-martin.blogspot.com/2010/01/using-creative-colors-in-fiction.html

    BTW
    I often read novels of this Spanish author Corin Tellado who specialized in always providing her protagonists with very-rarely-encountered combinations of eye colors.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corín_Tellado
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
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  8. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    Agreed. Tyra Banks (the supermodel) had a great lesson on America's Top Model oodles of years ago about "smizing", i.e. smiling with your eyes. She showed how you could cover up the bottom half of a photo and be able to tell just by the eyes whether the model was smiling or not.

    I've used "dark eyes" to mean either a) such a dark brown color that it's hard to tell the difference between the iris and the pupil and b) something along the lines of smizing but the opposite; a character's eyes becoming shuttered from emotional pain so you can't see hardly and of the whites anymore.
     
  9. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Thank you for that. My MC has azure blue eyes, and it was quite a lot of back and forth of whether or not to be that descriptive for a male character.
     
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  10. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    I guess I use more emotion than abstract adj. to describe how eyes look.
    Though if you like, you could have his eyes catch the light accentuating
    the fire burning from them, in the night.

    I too have an MC that has Azure Blues, but they are not human nor
    of the Earth. And her eyes are twice the size of a humans. :p
     
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  11. ghostkisses

    ghostkisses Member

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    Depends on the context. Bright-eyed doesn't necessarily mean you have a bright colour of eye - it could mean that is someone is kind of naive in that childlike way, their eyes are bright because they are happy and unknowing to the world around them.

    Secondly, I think that dark eyes can sometimes be bright. You ever seen brown eyes in the sunlight? Wow-ee. They turn gold. It's beautiful.

    So, yeah, um, really it seems like context is key with "bright-eyed". If they're looking at a lamp then that will probably be the reflection, unless there's something to contradict that (i.e it's some evil person that is getting all warm and fuzzy at the sight of the fire before their eyes... thinking of the destruction it can cause, Idk)

    Sorry that this wasn't really helpful. I guess it's your interpretation, which is probably why metaphors and such exist (even though this ain't a metaphor but shuush.) My sister said the best songs leave room for interpretation, I think it applies to stories too.
     
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  12. Radrook

    Radrook Banned Contributor

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    Corin Tellado would have tanned-skinned protagonist with deep blue eyes. Blond protagonists with caramel colored eyes. She was really creative in that area.

    BTW
    Check out the mind-boggling number of novels that Corin Tellado wrote! Absolutely amazing!
     
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