Thursday, August 9, 2012

The "Wandering Eyes" Have It -- Writing tip.

For an Eye of another kind, read Tom Glaviano's thriller!

Question: A member of my writing group constantly describes eyes as "glued to ---" whatever.... When I mentioned this as something she might want to watch, she said everybody used it that way and she'd seen it a hundred times. I seem to remember your warning me about this one.

Answer: I did! Everybody does do it that way. That's why it has become such a cliche. Not to mention that it's a rather gruesome image to glue anyone's eyes to something. Ouch!

I remember first hearing this terminology while riding an elevator at a Malice Domestic conference with a couple of editors from big print houses, who were comparing a collection of "wandering eyes" anecdotes and commenting that when the saw something like that, there was no reason to read further. "That sure helps weed out the slush pile," one said.

No, they weren't talking to me and this was not part of any writer's workshop, but it was a lesson that stayed with me and one I passed on often when I was teaching.

I have seen printed stories, where eyes "slid up and down" someone else's body, "dropped into a coffee cup," and "rolled around the floor." Good editors catch such phrases, as with few exceptions eyes, of annatomical necessity, remain inside one's head. People with little compassion and a mean sense of humor, like those two jaded editors, make cruel fun of "wandering eyes." Tell your friend that sometimes she can substitute "gaze," "glance," or "look."

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