Are the Eyes the Window to the Soul?

Mr. Miyagi bowed. His student followed. The old teacher slapped his young student behind the head. "Look eye! Always look eye." Daniel-san bowed with eyes glue on his teacher. Sticky.

My favorite thing about women are their eyes. Every time I meet an attractive woman, I'll see if I can read anything in their eyes. Is there anything stirring behind them? Any depth that'll make them interesting? Hoping that I'll connect to that intangible thing that sparks love at first sight.

In writing, is there anything wrong with using the eyes?

'His eyes dropped to the floor when he learned of his daughter's late night activities.'

Must have hurt!

'She snapped her eyes away when she opened the bedroom door to her parents' copious play.'

Whiplash!

'Her clothes dropped to the floor. His eyes burned with desire.'

Smoky!

I'd read an article about using the words eye and look. The author was editing a manuscript where the word look was used every single paragraph.

I laughed out loud. "What an amateur," I said in a British accent.

I turned to my completed manuscript, did a search for the word look, and found over 400. "Whatever!" I said in a valley girl voice. That was nothing. My word count was around 130,000.

Then I searched for more related words--glance, stare, gaze, watch, glimpse, eye, gander, squint, peek, peep, and all of the conjugated versions. Let's just say I felt very amateurish as I squinted my eyes in anger. Fire blazed from my eyeballs to my screen.

So how do we say that someone is looking at something wihout saying he's looking at something. Maybe like this:

He hid behind the curtain. His wife undressed. Her lover lit a candle. She giggled like a dirty girl. The strange man with a perfectly manicured five o'clock shadow unbuttoned his shirt. Two slabs of muscle bounced when he removed it.

So instead of saying he saw all this, just describe the scene. This was a huge revelation, freeing me of the looking words.

We're so inundated with TV and movies and great actors using their eyes to communicate their lines. It's no wonder that writers fall into the trap of having our characters glance and look at everything.

Using them is totally fine. Just don't over use.

Reading People

How do you read people? Go with your gut. What more is there?  Body language.  It's said that at least 80% of what people say is through body language.  And in fact, people intuitively read body language.  They may not be conscious of it.

If someone is assertive, their posture is straight, chest out, shoulders back, head craned like a flamingo.

What if someone slumps, hesitates to look you in the eye, crosses their arms, and even angles their body away?  Could be signs of deception, signs of low self worth or esteem.  With everything remaining the same, but you add the characteristics of someone who's assertive, then we can assume that person simply doesn't find you attractive.  Or they can be looking for someone and just doesn't see you.  Or they may be angry because someone stood them up.

But when reading people, I tend to go with my gut.  I do this with women.  Friends of mine have tried to set me up on blind dates.  The problem with that is within the first minute I can tell whether I have a connection with the woman or not.  And I'm old enough to realize the difference between lust and like.  Lust for men is pretty obvious.  Let's just say feelings toward the woman I'm in lust for don't originate anywhere within my chest.  And my eyes will most likely be focused on hers.

It sucks when I don't feel a connection.  Cuz I gots to talks to her.  Kinda like talking to a blank wall.  I'm sure it's the same for her.

Most people can't seem to read people.  Why is that?  Have they lost that special power?  Can anyone read people?  First off, any human can read another human, unless said human doesn't want to be read.  And you can lose that power by mistrust.  Whose trust?

Going with your gut means that you have to trust yourself.  Do you?  Well...do you need or ask others for their approval or opinion?  Read my post onGo with your gut. It'll give you an example of how I seeked approval outside of myself.

The way to practice this is by people watching.  Sit in a mall.  As a person walks by, let your mind create a story.  And trust that it's true, no matter how strange.  If you want to take a step further, go up and talk to them.  See how close your story came.

A better way of doing this is bring a friend.  My best friend and I used to do this a lot.  Most of the time we came up with the same story.  If our stories didn't match, then we'd discuss why we read what we read.

Writing the emotions of different characters can take the form of telling:  He's mad.  It can take the form of action:  He slammed his cup down.  It can take the form of body language:  She shoved him off and turned away.  Or it can take the form of dialogue:  "Get off me!"

Oooh.  Too much information.

Actors people watch a lot.  When I studied acting, I spent a lot of time people watching.  Now, I use that resource in my writing.  Because if you communicate emotion through just one way--telling, action, body language, dialogue--it can get boring.  Combining different ways allows for character development and variety.

Most important of all, trust yourself.  As kids, parents tell us 'No', 'Do this', 'Do that'.  As a result, we've become reliant on others.  Rely on yourself, open your mind, and let the stories come about.  You may be surprised.

San Francisco Writer's Conference

The San Francisco Writer's Conference was my first writer's conference. I didn't know how things worked, but the conference was held over three days full of lectures. The crappy thing about it was several lectures were going on within each hour session. So I had to make a decision on which lecture to attend. Because this was my first conference, I really wanted to focus on the business aspect of publishing. Over the next week or so, I'm going to post a lecture for you to listen everyday. So come back and check on what I've uploaded. Each one is about 45 minutes long, giving the attendees enough time to go to the next lecture.

The first one I'm going to upload is a lecture by best selling suspense romance novelist Brenda Novak. Her trilogy, The Last Stand: Trust Me, Stop Me, Watch Me, has become New York Time Bestsellers. She talks about strategies she's used to make her more visible and credible before her first book was published.

Please feel free to download these. I apologize for the quality of the audio, but there was a lot of ambient noise. The format of the file is .caf, but you should be able to play them using Windows Media Player or Quicktime. Tell me what you think, and come back as I will upload others.

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What you can expect in future audio uploads from the conference:

Key Note speeches from best selling authors

Body Language

How to write plot summaries

Self-publishing

Branding tactics

Q&A with Agent panels for both fiction and non-fiction

Lecture from a top agent, Donal Maass