Saw a tweet today- a really good snippet of a scene, and the author of the tweet used the word flashing to describe the character’s eyes. One of the responses was- is she an android?
After rolling my eyes and slumping in my chair, I took a deep breath and decided, okay. Let’s define eyes flashing.
Flashing denotes anger. She’s/he’s pissed. Doesn’t mean she’s an android.
Writers use all sorts of words and even make ones up to get a point across. I mean, dang, y’all can change the meanings of words, can’t we? But there are words writers have used for a very long time, like flashing, to describe anger.
She stalked across the room, fists clenched, jaw ticking, eyes flashing. I hid behind the dresser, hoping she left the room, or I’d be the next target for her lecture on doing the laundry and not wasting detergent.
This does not mean her eyes were literally flashing colors or pretty lights. It means that she is so pissed, you can SEE it. People glare.
My mama had a Sunday go to meeting look. Hands on her hips, chin down, shoulders back, face a mask of calm, but her brown eyes darkened into lit coals, complete with fire around the edges. I kept my head down. No eye contact. If she focused on me, we were going to have a word of prayer loudly.
It meant I was in trouble.
From my mother’s point of view in this scenario(and I know because I have been there myself) She was seeing red. Red denotes a lot of things- and anger is one of them. Red is hot. It’s fire. If you’re seeing red, you want to send someone to meet their maker. Your chest tightens and your head pounds as the blood pumps furiously through your veins. Your mind fights to find the words to diffuse a situation before your fists start flying.
And trying to make those words larger than four-letters is a struggle at that point. You want to slap something down and keep it there.
All of the above is seeing red. It’s eyes flashing to the one watching. two words in both descriptions as opposed to a whole paragraph to get a point across.
Body language is a real communication device. Body language is key in understanding someone, and we as writers have paid attention to every single person we’ve met. We give the reader descriptions and borrow from those who took great strides before us in molding and shaping literature, so that we can tell stories.
I do not want to say a character was angry. I want to describe what she looks like to the reader. I want to put the reader in the MC’s place and SHOW. I want you to FEEL it, and if I’m lucky, the reader will say, “Yeah, my mama/grandmama/Aunt/ Dad/Uncle/Coach/Preacher/Mister so-in-so down the street- had a look like that. I remember.”