Another Creative Writing pet hate: eyes (tip 58) Reply

With just three days to go until the deadline for our OWT short story competition, one of our judges makes an emotional plea: please, writers of the world, once and for all can we stop going on about eyes!

Video transcript follows below:

So those of you who’ve followed these videos for a while now have suffered prolonged exposure to my ugly mug. So here’s a question: what colour are my eyes?

Apparently I’ve one blueish eye and one greenish eye. But you didn’t know that. Why? Because it’s totally irrelevant and boring. It doesn’t matter. So next time you’re describing a character and are tempted to say she has “piercing blue eyes”, don’t. It doesn’t matter what colour her eyes are – it would make no difference if they were green or grey or brown. And her eyes aren’t piercing. Imagine you go to get your belly button pierced and instead of using a needle or a piercing gun, the body piercer starts rubbing their eye against your tummy. It’s not going to work, is it? You can call it a metaphor; I call it nonsense.

Writers are weirdly obsessed with eyes and attribute to them extraordinary powers.  To write ‘I followed her, overcome by a mysterious lure in her eyes’ is like writing ‘I followed her and I can’t be bothered to explain why.’  ‘I saw burning desire in her eyes’; no, you didn’t. ‘His eyes cut right through me.’  Doubt it.

Eyes are just eyes. Use your word processer’s find function to look for where you’ve written about eyes, and imagine substituting the word ‘nose’ for the word ‘eyes’. ‘I followed her, overcome by a mysterious lure in her nose.’ ‘I saw burning desire in her nose.’ ‘Her nose cut right through me.’ It makes no more or less sense.

Thanks for watching and good luck with your writing.

(The thumbnail for this video uses a photograph by Riccardo Cuppini. It is covered by a Creative Commons license, and you can find more of his work here:

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