Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Eye Color

In honor of MLK, would it be all right to say that I dream of a day when my fantasy characters are not judged of their worthiness to fulfill a prophecy based on the color of their eyes? I'm so sick of "striking" blue eyes and "brilliant" blue eyes and permutations of that. It's not that I dislike blue eyes--I have them, in fact, and I don't know if they're strikingly so or not, but in some pictures they certainly jump out. It's just that every time a character's eye color is mentioned, it seems that it's blue, or once in a while green, especially paired with red hair. My son has the most beautiful hazel eyes, shading toward brown as he gets older (I don't know yet what color my daughter's eyes will be). Why must so many writers point out their character's blue eyes, or why must the fact of their blue eyes be so significant?

To be fair, my fantasy characters are unlikely to ever be the subject of a prophecy at all because I shy away from that, but the point remains--blue eyes far too often signify "good" or "trustworthy" or "important" in fantasy stories. When that assumption is broken, when no ranking is implied by eye color of any type, then go back to having blue-eyed heroes and heroines when there's a reason for it. Until then, question yourself everytime you're tempted to mention a character's eye color.

4 comments:

Fred said...

I often find that eye color, and other physical descriptors, really aren't very significant at all. Unless it's important to the story -- e.g. nobody else in this world has blue eyes, a blue-eyed child was prophesied centuries ago by great wizards, etc. -- telling me what a character looks like doesn't really tell me anything about the character. Certainly nothing that couldn't be better conveyed otherwise. Does the reader gain anything by knowing what color the character's eyes are? If not, there's really no reason to share that.

Lion said...

Guilty as charged, though not so much with the prophecies. I'm resolved to break out of my reliance on distinctively pretty people, but it's going to be a long upward climb. :)

Daniel Ausema said...

I'm with you there, Fred...my tendency is to go pretty minimal on physical descriptions of characters. So I don't think eye color has come up much at all in my own writing. But some people definitely prefer to have more of those visual cues when reading, and so it seems to come out in their stories.

Lion, that is definitely a tendency in fantasy also, to have physical beauty be a sign of inner character...and a very dangerous tendency at that. So while I don't typically have characters described as blonde, blue-eyed bombshells (etc.), I do have to watch how I have other characters react to them--it's too easy to hint that a character is attractive by their culture's standards.

Lindsey Duncan said...

I find that I have a mild addiction to describing characters in relation to the societal norm. Gives you a bit of mental image, a bit of (shallow) cultural flavor, and an idea how the character fits into that world - maybe even self-image ... all in one fell swoop.

You're going to make me paranoid about blue eyes, though. Augh! *grin*