Monday, December 17, 2007

The Eyes Have It!

Well, as long as we're on the subject of body parts-- let's elevate a bit and talk about eyes.

That Vision Thing
I lament the loss of equating eyes with vision, that is, eyes being able to do things like "rake her face" and "drop the floor" and "roam restlessly around the room," but alas, our readers have a marked tendency to picture this literally and either laugh or say "ewww!" I diagnose too many horror movies at an impressionable age. Or maybe we just live in a too-literal age. Nonetheless, we can't avoid it-- we're not getting across what we want to get across.

Fortunately, there's an easy fix for these detachable eye problems-- "gaze". Try substituting "gaze" every time eyes do something rather too independently or metaphorically:

His gaze raked her face.
Her gaze dropped to the floor.
His gaze roamed restlessly across the room.

It's inoffensive and gets the meaning across without too much laughter.

Actual Eyes
Now eyes actually can twinkle and sparkle and gleam. Those are all okay, because they aren't metaphorical-- they actually refer not to the vision of the eye-owner, but to the actual physical appearance of the eyes themselves.

Eye Synonyms
One more thing-- "eyes" is about the only safe word for those physical spheres on either side of your nose. We all have them, and I can just about guarantee our readers NEVER think of those body parts as "orbs" or even "limpid pools of soulfulness" or "peepers". They think of them as "eyes". So:

His eyes were blue.
Her eyes welled up with tears.
He gazed into her emerald-green eyes and thought he saw his destiny.

Just remember:
Eyes as vision = gaze
Eyes as actual body parts = eyes.

This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, of course. Hardly anything is. But how much creativity do you want to waste on this oft-used term? Convey your meaning efficiently and use your beautiful prose on the dark trees against the white snow: Bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

Oh, sorry. Shakespeare said that first. :)



Edittorrent said...

As long as your eyes don't plug up my nose, we're in good shape. :)


Anonymous said...

One of my problems is that I end up with too many 'gazes'. The only alternatives I can think of are 'stared', 'glared' and plain old 'looked'. Can you suggest some other good 'looking' verbs?


Tracey Devlyn said...

Bethany, I worry about the same thing. I've used 'focused', 'regarded', 'peered', and 'glanced' as substitutes. But sometimes 'gaze' is the right word. :)

Alexis Fleming said...

lol The first time I learned about floating body parts I had the heroine's eyes stuck to the hero's rear end. Believe me, I learned my lesson.


Renee said...

It would seem that I have too many gazes as well.

Anonymous said...

I use "considered" and "studied" and "regarded" a lot. I have a lot of contemplative characters. :)


Carole McDonnell said...

This post made me smile. It reminded me of a post on
Paula Guran's blog over at Juno in which she talked about all those shoulders and groins. Ah the things that groins do do! Thanks so much for this post.