Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Eye Contact

Every once in a while, I realize the amazing amounts of meaning that can be conveyed in a glance. I have a friend who stares down cars when she steps out onto a cross walk. She steps off the curb and glares at the car until it come to a complete stop and allows her to cross the street safely. Somehow the power of her glance stops a moving vehicle.

So in the building where I work, there is another way glances play a part in my every day life. Usually something like this happen:

I'm busy at my desk but then decide to take a break to go to the bathroom. I get up and step into the hall and notice a smattering of other students. Mostly male. And then I notice another female grad student. I know her, and I smile at her, but she refuses to make eye contact. In fact, her step speeds up.

This can only mean one thing. She's headed to the bathroom.

Suddenly we're locked in a walking race, where neither girl will look at the other. We know the prize: the bathroom. That's right my friends, there is only one, and it can only serve one person at a time. This is what happens when you go to a school that's mostly male. Heck, you're lucky if there is a bathroom on your floor.

Looks, or lack of looks are important. We all know this. And yet so many writers, like me, overuse looks and glances in our stories, and our readers are like "Do your characters have to 'gaze' or 'glance' so much?"

How can we overuse something that's so prevalent in real life?

It's something I struggle with, I'll admit. I think the reason why glances are so hard to come across in fiction is because it's hard to describe them. In real life, a look can convey a hundred words, meanings, and feelings. An author actually has to describe those hundred words, meanings, and feelings. It's more difficult than a quick glance is visually.

So somehow I need to let go of my use of "glances", "looks", and "gazes". I need to do better at describing the emotions that should come across in the scene, and not rely on visuals that can't come across well.

Anyone out there struggle with glances too?

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