Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Infamous "Glance"

On that last post, someone left a comment wondering just how exactly people could misuse certain words - namely the words that Tim often rants about.

While I can't recall Tim's rant about "hopefully" and "nauseous," I do know his rant about "glance." I remember this one because I frequently misused it. The funny thing was, I knew what glance meant. Even when I used it incorrectly. But I still did it. However, after Tim's reminder, I thought perhaps I ought to start using "glance" as it is supposed to be used and finding other ways of either eliminating other words like "look" or finding alternate things to do.

So what's the deal with glance?

If you go back and look up the definition of glance, you'll find that it is NOT the same thing as look. A glance is fast. It is brief. You can only glean so many details and bits of information when you glance at something. If you glance at your mom, sure you might notice that her shirt is red, but you're not going to be able to see the fine lines around her eyes or what type of fabric the shirt is made of. Yet in writing, people (myself included at one point in time) often use glance the same as they would look. A character glances at another character and mentions so many details, it is impossible that they would have noticed so much had they truly glanced at that character.

I'd like to add that a glance over the shoulder will tell you even less. Glance over your shoulder right now and see what you can really distinguish. When I do it, I can see that there's a door behind me and that there is snow on the ground outside. You simply don't see very well unless you actually turn your body a little. That doesn't mean you have to mention your character turning (God forbid - look out for stage directions!) or something like that, but whenever characters glance over their shoulders, they often see sad looks on other character's faces and so forth when you wouldn't unless you had eyes like Superman.

So it's just something to remember when writing that your character glanced at so-and-so. Make it a real glance, not a look. And another thing to keep in mind; pay attention to how much looking your characters do. Chances are, if someone is talking, readers will automatically assume the character will look at the speaker without the writer mentioning it. This actually makes me want to talk about stage directions, but I think that's enough for now.

I see you...(because I'm not glancing)


Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Very true. And I'm so bad at feeling the need to describe eyes too much in my stories. I have to be careful with looks and glances too.

Sara McClung ♥ said...

wow. I actually didn't know that! *shakes head at self*

thanks for the educational post :-)

Amalia T. said...

Eyes are my problem, too-- they tend to get everywhere. Settling on people in gooey squishy ways... Very unfortunate writing habit.

M.R.J. Le Blanc said...

hmm, I learn something new every day. I'll certainly be keeping that in mind on this next wip.