Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Eyes Have It

Chesapeake Series, vol. 4 
by Terry L. White

Jewel LeCompte is raised to be a lady, her blindness notwithstanding, but the events of the Civil War introduce her to the harsh reality of the work that goes with running an Eastern Shore plantation.

After the war, Jewel marries Carroll Taylor, who takes her home to the plantation known as Baron's Hope. Happy and expecting her first child, Jewel is finally learning to read Braille through the help of a tutor from Baltimore. Unfortunately Carroll is swept away by a monster tide generated by one of the hurricanes that regularly scour the Atlantic coast.

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 may 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, after your story is finished.

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 as ou said, you  have "seen 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' Conference 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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