Are your character’s eyes important?

Irie 023

When we are designing our characters we often think of their physical appearance. The problem with this is that physical appearances when fit into a story can often sound clunky and out of place. The Daily Post photo challenge theme for this week is “Eye Spy“, so I would like to focus on the development of a character through their eyes.

The first question we should ask ourselves is: Are our character’s eyes important? Do they contribute to the story? If so, how?

Let’s look at some popular examples. Out of all the characters I have ever read about, there are only a few for whom I could name their eye colour:

1.) Harry Potter: Harry’s eyes are green, but the most important thing about them is that they are his mother’s eyes. His eyes could be any colour but the resemblance to his mother gives him a connection to her that he wouldn’t otherwise have.

2) Danaerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones): Danaerys’ eyes are a deep shade of violet and this is a crucial component to the story because only people that are direct descendants of House Targaryen have violet eyes. It enables others in the story to instantly recognize her royal blood, and it gives the reader clues when they are introduced to other members of House Targaryen, when George R.R. Martin describes only their eyes.

3) Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones): George R.R. Martin frequently refers to Tyrion’s mismatched eyes, one green and one dark brown. This is an important factor to his character because it emphasizes how much of an outsider is and adds to his grotesque appearance.

I think the common theme in these examples is that the importance lies not in what the character’s eye colour is, but how their eyes affect their persona. So, when creating your own character try not to focus on the colour of their eyes so much as what their eyes say about them. In the kitten in the photo above is it important that she has cat eyes, or that they are green? Or is it more important that they hold in them the curiosity of a kitten? That her expression is dreamy and complacent, yet somehow curious. What does this say about her as a cat?

Lastly I would like to say do not be afraid to leave your character’s eyes out! If you feel they do not contribute to your character then your reader doesn’t need to read about them! Decide what defines your character and draw the reader’s gaze to that aspect.

Happy writing!

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