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Focus Less On the Eyes

When a writer really wants to get poetic, or don't know what else to go to for description, they go straight for the eyes.

As someone who doesn't remember the eye color of no more than five people while discounting standard phenotype, eyes comes off as being overused.

Do Teens Even Notice Eye Color?

This isn't just from personal experience.

For example, in a formal that Dad pushed me into, one of the things we learned about etiquette is to look at our partner directly in the eyes.

You wouldn't believe how many teens don't do that without being prompt.

So in many cases, it seems like teen characters notice eye colors too quickly.

Thing is, unless there's something especially about a character's eye color, it's not an especially memorable detail. Really, the most important details is hair color, race, frame, etc. The little details are the ones readers usually fill in, including eye color. 

It's not like you're going to cause anyone to stumble over a description if you describe one's eyes halfway through the story, like what would probably happen with race.

Does Romance Receive a Discount?

Now, I can't represent the opinion of everyone here. I'm not exactly sure, but at least in Fictionland, when you have a romantic connection with someone, you tend to notice a lot about one's eyes. Besides the exact tint of it, you can discern a lot about mood as you swim in the pools. You can sense a storm or a wailing plead.

Does this happen in real life?

I'll give the benefit of the doubt and say yes, even though I'm not the one to be swayed for romantic tendencies.

Everyone Else Pays Full Price

In other situations, eye color shouldn't be something the writer fixates over. There're many other details in a story's world you can delegate words to. Sure, you can get special with eyes (exotic colors, scars), but that won't be the case for most characters.

My point though is that eyes shouldn't be a description fallback. If you find yourself bringing them up too much, it might be worth doing some slashing and swapping with more creative words during editing.

I won't point fingers this time, but at least one author who wrote a really great novel was guilty of focusing on eyes too much. She might have drifted from this though.

On the other hand, there's a very famous trilogy...

...never mind.

How I Do Eyes

At least in Manifestation Files, like with a lot of other elements, I went and played with eyes.

By default, my narrator, Bryan, doesn't notice eyes. He observes certain things more than others, and that particular part of the face falls under his radar.

An exception is when the character in question is a psychic. Eyes are one of the few differences between a "mundane" person and a psychic, at least from the "Muggle's" point-of-view. It's just that impression that something is off.

So when you're reading and eyes are brought up, take that as a sign.

You'll either thank me later when you catch pieces of foreshadowing you'd otherwise miss--or curse me out when I lob a red herring your way. ;)

Hey, it's one way to be creative.

It's YOUR TURN to respond!


What is your opinion on eyes in fiction? Should they be brought out in details, or a small matter to be brushed over in most cases?

Answer in the comments, or write about it on your own blog and link back. Responses will be compiled into the next round-up.