A few days ago when I was playing on Twitter*, I made the mistake of tweeting this:
* I know it’s not called Twitter any more, and I probably shouldn’t be there. But I call it that and I’m there, so… hedgehogs.
I expected one or two chirps from the void and then silence.
Instead I spent a good portion of the next day responding to a plethora of writers who felt this was an important point. (Is 147 a plethora? I think it is.)
To many writers, eye colour is important
These are the writers with organised character sheets that begin with height, weight, age, hair colour, and eye colour, and end with bicep circumference and favourite type of doughnut.
A few people’s characters have eyes that are “brown unless otherwise stated”–which makes sense for lots of countries, statistically speaking–but many writers give their characters striking or unusual coloured eyes. Blue, green, violet, amber, gold, black, red…
You know, cool coloured eyes because clearly these characters are special.
I have a cat whose eyes you might call amber, and he is pretty darn special.
Distinct but related are the readers who know the colour of their characters’ eyes because they draw them. They’re into manga or it’s part of their process. I approve.
Eye colours that matter for the story
A bunch of people confessed to knowing the colour of their character’s eyes, but only because it was important for the story.
It was the key to some secret of parentage.
It showed what type of magic they used, or was the effect of them using magic.
Or it mattered to the story because it mattered for the character. Perhaps they got bullied at school for their weird orange eyes, so they became a supervillain and horse-napped all the unicorns.
All valid reasons.
Eyes that are a colour
Some writers give their characters an eye colour, even include it in their draft, then forget it.
So, eye colour is important enough to say, but not important enough to remember?
In many cases, this resulted in magically changing eye colours. I’m not averse, but…
She stared into his cerulean eyes
Romantic scenes often involve two characters staring into each others’ eyes (I assume, not writing such books). At this point, it’s fair to imagine one character might notice the eye colour of the other.
And wouldn’t cerulean eyes be special?
Characters who have eyes
Some writers who responded had never considered character eye colour at all. I may have given them some bad ideas.
One said no, but they know the colour of their characters’ hearts. Possibly my favourite response.
Of all the camps, I fall most closely into this one. As a non-careful reader and a writer who’s reducing word count by cutting every extraneous word, eye colour usually isn’t important enough to mention. Except when it is.
I did think about eye colour, then thought, ‘meh’.
I state at one point that my MC has darker rings around her irises–noticed by another character who’s gazing into her eyes–but I don’t say her eye colour. Tell me that’s enough.
People who notice eye colour in real life
Then there are the weirdest types of writers: those who meet a person in real life and notice the colour of their eyes.
Who does that?
I know the eye colours of five people in real life, three of whom I’m related to and have discussed the heredity of eye colour with (because high school biology). Then there’s hubby and a close friend who, after four years of near-daily contact, I realised had striking grey eyes.
But people who meet someone new and notice they have blue eyes? Do they live in a romance novel?
Do you tell the reader what colour eyes your characters have? As a reader, do you want to know characters’ eye colours? Once told, do you remember them for more than a millisecond?
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