Did I miss the writing seminar where it was recommended to drop eye color as often as possible, especially when characters are gazing….um, anywhere? I’m fifty-eight books deep in this year of reviews and if I have to digest more eye color descriptions I just might gouge my own eyes out. They’re hazel by the way, just in case you needed the visual. Does it really matter what my eye color is? Is it significant to this article or further help you understand the depth of who I am? The answer is NO!
Lets make like crystal, not all eye color descriptions should be eliminated. However, just like every other detail in fiction writing, it should present for a reason and not just simply as a DMV statistical identification report. Unless your character has been kidnapped and the fictional police are putting out an alert, introductory descriptions should not read like a wanted poster: 5’5, violet eyes and black hair that curls around her cheek. Which brings me to the violet eye epidemic that is sweeping the fictional nation.
No one is born with violet eyes. There are some situations that will lead to eyes appearing violet. This can occur when the combination of a person with not enough pigment in the iris to cover blood vessels meets with light that reflects off those vessels. Hence, the Elizabeth Taylor photo effect. It also can happen to persons with blue eyes when experiencing ‘bloodshot’ due to irritation. The violet is temporary. Sorry to burst the pop culture bubble, but your character does not have violet or black eyes unless they come from the plant Zandor, invested in colored contact lens or photoshopped those babies. The initial intention of the violet eye was probably to make use of an unusual color for uniqueness, but now violet is overused making it cliché.
But wait, eyes are so pretty and mysterious, intriguing and the windows to the soul. Perhaps, but I’m more likely to imagine, putting skin on bone of your character through events, intentions, actions, reactions, habits and dialogue. Trust me when I say, his deep blue eyes does nothing for my imagination but it does turn my stomach and make me groan. If you just can’t refrain, then make it count and do it once. Here’s a suggestion: Her eyes were the color of day old puke splattered against white bathroom tile. His eyes were the color of a knock-off Nike blue swish imported from Japan. You get the idea, right?
Also, keep in mind you do not need to include eye color throughout the story as part of the action. Example: She turned her head, her green eyes connecting with his as the firebomb exploded in the background. The fact she has green eyes does not matter and is taking up valuable space in my head now. Besides, why are all these characters spending so much time contemplating the mystery of eye color when they are being hunted by zombies, stabbed, abducted, stalked by werewolves and vampires, fighting cancer, curing cancer, saving the world and being sucked into a romantic comedy or teen dream novel. Okay, the last two make sense – but the others? If you’re covered in blood and just discovered the new guy with no parents shape-shifted to rescue you from a bullet train that a zombie shoved you in front of, why are you wondering if his eyes look darker (almost black, my personal fav.) than they did yesterday when you spoke in the cafeteria?
As I mentioned earlier, if eye color is important to the story, symbolic and meaningful for more than just identification purposes, then by all means use it, but make it count and make it clear why it should count.