Her eyes followed his gaze around the room

A while back, Kristen Lamb posted 5 Red Flags Your Story Needs Revision. I have a lot of respect for her advice, even if I’m not very good at taking it. There’s one thing here that she says that’s been bothering me a lot ever since.

Painful and Alien Movement of Body Parts? Time for Revision

Make sure your character keeps all body parts attached. Her gaze can follow a person and so can her stare, but if her eyes follow… the carpet gets them fuzzy with dust bunnies and then they don’t slide back in her sockets as easily.

I understand the point, and for the most part agree, but I have a problem with the phrase ‘her gaze followed…’ Used as a verb, I have no problem with ‘gaze’; used as a noun, it sounds awkward or archaic.

I really don’t see why anyone would have a problem with ‘her eyes followed…’ – it’s immediately understood and only a perversely pedantic mind (such as mine, usually) would trip over the meaning.

Although… Consider:

  1. Her eyes followed him around the room.
  2. Her eyes followed him as he walked around the room.
  3. Her gaze followed him around the room.
  4. She gazed at him as he walked around the room.

The first one is really quite odd. The second one significantly less so. The third confuses me. The fourth… is fine.

I think my biggest problem with ‘gaze’, whether as verb or noun, is that it translates in my mind as a quite gentle way of looking at something, whereas the modern meaning of ‘gaze’ has a much greater intensity. From the OED:

In early use: To look vacantly or curiously about; also, to stare, open one’s eyes (with astonishment). In modern use: To look fixedly, intently, or deliberately at something. Now chiefly literary.

About Frank

A Sci-Fi & Fantasy author and lyrical poet with a mild obsession for vampires, succubi, goddesses and Supergirl.
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