On Getting Things Done

A few days ago, renowned fantasy author Brandon Sanderson passed through town on a book tour, and I stopped in to hear him do a reading and get a fresh copy of Steelheart signed. He spoke of many things both interesting and mundane, but one thing in particular has been echoing through my head ever since.

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Your Character’s Eye Color Doesn’t Matter

It’s time to air a small grievance I have with writers. Or rather, point out a crutch that seems far too common in fiction: using eye color as shorthand for personality.

It makes sense that this sort of thing pops up because eyes are the most important part of the face. It’s where we look to learn what someone is thinking and feeling. It was the first thing we thought about in English class when we were doing writing exercises about vivid descriptions. But too often writers are using eye color as a cheap way to tell you all about a character’s personality.

You’ve seen it a million times. Brown eyes = boring, excruciatingly normal, uninteresting. Blue eyes = pretty, intelligent, exciting, angelic, possibly ethereal. Green eyes = exotic, unusual, exceptional, feisty, sexy. Red eyes = craves destruction, mayhem, revenge, or your blood. Hazel eyes = Mary Sue.

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