Eyes are over-rated.
Not in the sense of seeing. I like doing that. But you ever read a book or a story where it seems like the author is obsessed with what people’s eyes are doing? They’re always looking, staring, glaring, squinting, rolling, narrowing, widening, falling out…
I know why it happens: we view eyes as the windows to the soul. In other words, they’re a shorthand for emotions. Narrowed eyes = skepticism. Glaring eyes = angry. Looking at something, looking away from something…we use eyes to shape expectations and emotions without having to come right out and say it. I’m just as guilty of doing this as anyone. Eyes are everywhere in my first drafts. You’d swear the characters are nothing more than a pair of floating eyeballs, drifting through the conflict, occasionally rolling in irritation.
But we’ve got a whole body to play with, so why are we so goddamn hung up on eyes? I draw a fair bit, and I can tell you that body language is just as useful when creating emotion as the pair of ocular orbs we’ve got stuck in the front of our heads. Shoulders, hands, legs, hips, backs, chins…they all advertise how we’re feeling. Even if we’re trying to hide it, the hiding advertises itself in its own tense, unnatural posture.
Today’s Monday Challenge: take a look at yourself right now. You’re standing/sitting/hovering in some way to read this, and it says something about your mind set. Interested? Bored?* Distracted? Curious? Take a hard look at your posture and how you feel. Where are your hands? Is your back straight, reclined, slumped? Weight on both feet? Shifting? Throat dry or tight? Shoulders tense or relaxed? Why?
Then write me your mindset without mentioning your eyes. Convey the feeling to me with the language of the other parts of your body. Stretch yourself a little bit.**
*I hope not, but, you know, I’m not judging.
**Your skills, not your body. Unless you’ve been sitting for a while. Then, yeah, maybe get up and move around a little.