RARA-AVIS: Eyes and colors . . . maybe

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 07 Feb 2000

I have been testing a theory of mine that the average reader loves seeing the author use "eyes" as often as possible. (As in: "He looked in her eyes and knew she was ready to two-time him.") That if two writers wrote the same type of book, the book with the most "eye contact" between characters would sell more.

Somebody a few years ago on DorothyL kept track in some best-seller and was freaked to discover there were maybe 270 incidents when "he saw in her eyes that she . . ." It was goofy the first time I saw it . . . but then I kept seeing that "gimmick"(?) being used in books. And the more often it was used, the more often the book received favorable treatment.

I don't have my copy of Maltese Falcon handy, but I did play with the text a bit, ignoring the dialogue and see what was left. What I think I remember was curious: a lot of that "eye contact", but also a weird, very distanced things with "hands", too.

I do know the more often the writer uses primary colors to describe something, the more readers seem to go for it. I've been teaching Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" and every other paragraph has extensive repetition of primary colors. Hammett uses colors often -- more than I initially thought there would be, but I think James Lee Burke gets the prize.

Anybody else notice this?

Best wishes

Frederick Zackel

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