Writing Craft

I think the eyes have it

I’ve been thinking about eyes this morning. As with many things right now, mostly influenced by my critique partner. But somewhere in the last few years I remember reading a blog post of writing craft, highlighting 10 things one author found most annoying. One of them was characters with eyes that drop and slide. In it, the author said something like: “every time I read about the heroine’s eyes dropping… or the hero dropped his eyes… I get visions of two eyeballs rolling around the floor and everyone scurrying to pick them up.”

Good point. But I feel like the authors I read have characters with eyes that slip and slide, especially some of the cop thrillers I love, like anything by John Sandford. He always writes shady, seedy characters who don’t want to answer Lucas Davenport’s questions and so their eyes slide away…

My CP made some comments in my manuscript about ‘eyes sliding’… which my characters tend to do a fair bit. Although they don’t always slide. They drop or flick or, you know.

So I’ve been consulting another oracle this morning (Jennifer Crusie), but in a reasonably quick scan of some first chapters, this is all I could find:

“I need somebody who doesn’t care about the way things are supposed to be,” he said, his eyes sliding to her neck. Jennifer Crusie, Maybe This Time.

And even Sandford, who I thought did it a lot? I couldn’t find that many references when I really started trying.

So I think I have my answer. It’s time to do a search through my book for “eyes” and see how much slippin’ and slidin’ and droppin’ my characters’ eyes actually do. Maybe they need to look more, or follow (which Crusie does), or hold, or evade.

Maybe they can slide once or twice, or look sideways, just not fall to the carpet and hide under the furniture for the rest of the book. 🙂

In the meantime, I thought of a little ditty. You have to sing it in your head in tune with “Do your ears hang low.” Warning: you may have to be mother (or father) of kids under 5 to remember the tune!

Here goes:

Do your eyes slide and slip?

Do they drop and fly and skip?

Do they flick left and right?

Do they bug and screw up tight…

I won’t inflict anymore of my lousy Keats upon you!

What about you? Do you write characters with eyes that almost deserve a gymnastics medal? Any other favorites? I have this vague memory of another blog post about eyes where a publisher said, just once, she’d like to read about a heroine with ordinary hazel eyes or brown eyes… or any eyes except green, or violet, or ice-blue. Her point being, the vast percentage of women (and men) on the planet have very ordinary-coloured eyes and yet writers tends to want to make their characters’ eyes anything but normal. She said she was looking forward to the day she read a submission about a heroine with ordinary, plain, hazel-coloured eyes.

More to remember!