Monday, December 9, 2013

Glued Eyes?

A Genealogical Mystery!

Canadian doctor and amateur genealogist Anne McPhail finds a murdered woman on the floor of the library in Culver's Mill's, a small town in Vermont. Jennifer Smith, the dead librarian was a gifted genealogical researcher who had been collecting information about her clients, and using it to blackmail them. She had extorted money from all kinds of people: local wealthy families; Russian criminals, and quiet, unassuming grandmothers. Anne takes a dangerous journey, retracing Jennifer’s steps through the small-town family histories find the murderer amongst her victims.

Question from the E-mail:  My writers' group jumped all over me because I said a character's eyes were "glued to the page" of the message she was reading. I've seen it done a thousand times. What's wrong with that???

Answer:  First, you  HAVE seen it done a thousand times and that IS what's wrong with it. It's a real cliche!  

Second, because you have seen it so often, you will not pick up on it as a problem when you put on your editor's hat, and look for things to fix, revise or change, before showing the ms to anyone else.

Also, as a publisher I can tell you that "Wandering Eyes" are one of the most common flaws for new writers and can generate cruel humor amongst editors.  

Actually, in all my years of reading, I have seen only ONE book were eyes were actually glued--one of Tami Hoad's where a serial killer super-glued his victims' eyes shut.  It's supposed to be a metaphor and one that's not exactly accurate, although you will "see it done" often!

I HAVE read printed stories, where eyes "slid up and down" someone else's body, "dropped into a coffee cup," and "rolled around the floor." (All those examples are from best-selling authors, as well.) Good editors catch such phrases, as with few exceptions, eyes remain inside the head. 

People, especially editors, with little compassion and a mean sense of humor make cruel fun of "wandering eyes." In an elevator at a Romance Writers' Converence in Washington DC, I heard two of New York's best editors making fun of eyes in recent submissions that had "Slid over someone's breasts," "absorbed someone's luscious lips," and "delved deep within the woman he held." A novice myself at the time, I said nothing, but marked it down as a lesson learned.

HINT: Sometimes you can substitute "gaze," "glance," or "look."

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