As I was editing today, I got to thinking about the role that eye color has to play when it comes to creating our protagonists. It’s rather a silly thing to think about, but as I was tracking the appearances of my characters, I began to wonder how the details correlate with what the readership expects. And while we are on that thought, what does the readership expect? Perhaps it goes way past the eyes.
Personally, when I think of dashing heroes and damsels in distress, I have a very specific image in mind. Sometimes it’s of a dark and brooding mister man with gorgeous black hair and alluring blue eyes, and sometimes it’s of the innocent and naïve blonde chick with the beautiful green eyes. But, usually they always have blue or green eyes. I don’t know why that is. Well, maybe I do.
Maybe it is because this is an image of beautiful that culture dictates for us. I mean, there are people who go out of their way to buy blue or green contact lenses, or dye their hair blonde in order to fit this image. It’s not too far off to expect that the “good” people in our books should be the ones who look the same way. It isn’t also too far off to expect that the characters who are supposed to stand out in a story shouldn’t look “plain” like everyone else.
In the manuscript that I am currently working on, a historical women’s fiction, I purposefully made my heroine look plain, but beautiful in an understated way. Sure, she has brunette hair and brown eyes, but that shouldn’t make her any less important that anyone else. My hero also isn’t exactly ravishing, but do you need to be drop-dead-gorgeous in order to fulfill your role? I consciously made these choices, perhaps even defiantly. Not that I am saying anything against those who want to keep to the cultural norms that are dictated to us by the media and Hollywood. It is what is expected. It’s a shoe to fit. It’s natural and normal, and it is what most people want to read about.
To counter this, I will admit, that in my current WIP, a dystopian YA, all of my main characters have exotic violet eyes, which serve a whole other function of their own aside from their awesomeness. They are exotic on purpose, though, as these people are supposed to be separated from the “ordinary” population of Citizens. I guess, if I think along those same lines, people who do this with their protagonists are separating them from the “ordinary” as well. It’s logical.
So, I am asking you now: Do you think that writers are expected to describe their characters in a certain way? And do you think readers expect to see certain descriptions for your characters?
Also, if you could think about your current characters, what color eyes do they have?