Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Beautiful Eyes You Have!

by Gina Welborn

A few weeks ago I was reading a romance where the heroine had sea-green eyes. Okay. Ponder with me for a moment sea-green eyes. Is it this shade . . . ?
Or this one . . . ?
Or this one . . . ?

I wasn't -- and still, aren't -- sure. Fortunately, the author further described the heroine's eyes as . . . "the most amazing shade of seafoam green."

Oh. Isn't that like defining a word with a word? Lemme google. According to one source, "Slightly darker than Surf Green, Sea Foam Green (also called Foam Green by Dupont) is a great choice for either a Strat or Tele style body. Originally seen on the '56 Buick it saw life with Fender from '60 to '69." Another source says, "Seafoam green is a "fresh, green pastel that establishes a light and airy mood in any bathroom. It offers a clean, crisp feeling that also works well with other darker greens." Here's a color swatch:

Is it humanly possible to have eyes that NATURALLY shade?

Sometimes I think we romance writers get so busy trying to one-up the next author in eye color description that we create impossible eye colors. Of my five children, they each have blue eyes that range from light blue to cornflower blue to gray-blue to greenish blue. Each with a darker outer ring. If you look close, one of my eyes is more green than blue. I never noticed. Hubby never noticed. Took a flamboyant Elizabeth Arden make-up artist to point it out. Who knew, but he was right.

Speaking of flamboyant characters . . . Val Kovalin at Obsidian Bookshelf compiled an amazing and thought-provoking list of eye colors, many of which have become cliched.(for list click here but be prewarned that Mr. Kovalin writes gay romance fiction) . Or you could just read what Wikipedia has to say about the various eye colors at

To see how realistic some of my favorite CBA romance authors describe eyes, I asked a few for snippets from their novels then I found eye pictures that I thought best represented their descriptions. Did I do a fair job or was totally off?

Geneva found herself looking straight into the bluest pair of eyes she’d ever seen. They were the blue of the open ocean off Ferguson Point after the morning fog burned off and the noon sun hung high overhead. Not a cloud diminished the hue of the vast, flat expanse of sea then, but its inky blue depths sparkled with a thousand lights and depths from the reflecting sun. ~Ruth Axtell Morren, Wild Rose, Love Inspired Historicals

When she looked up at him, her eyes were large, amber brown, and fringed with dark lashes. ~Julie Klassen, The Girl in The Gatehouse, Bethany House

And now that she had seen him up close, her curiosity had been assuaged and she could tell Hildy—his eyes were blue, deeper and darker than a woodland pool. ~Melanie Dickerson, The Healer's Apprentice, Zondervan

Tabitha had never seen a man with such beautiful eyes. The rich, deep brown of coffee, they sparkled with pinpoints of gold light behind a fringe of lashes that would have made them feminine if not for his strong cheekbones and firm jaw. ~Laurie Alice Eakes, Lady in the Mist, Revell

Non-Serious Question of the Day :: What eye color description have you read that literally made you stop and ponder, "Is this possible?"

Serious Question of the Day :: Actually, I don't have one. However, would anyone like to join me in singing, "My Father's Eyes?"  . . . eyes full of compassion, knowing what you're going through and feeling it the same . . .


Gina Welborn worked in news radio writing copy until she took up writing romances. She is a 2009 ACFW Genesis historical romance finalist and a 2007 RWA Golden Heart® inspirational finalist. This
Oklahoma-raised girl now lives in Richmond, Virginia with her youth-pastor husband, their five Okie-Hokie children, and a Sharpador Retriever who doesn’t retrieve much of anything. Her first novella, “Sugarplum Hearts,” part of the HIGHLAND CROSSINGS anthology, will be released by Barbour in January 2012.


  1. fun topic!

    my heroine has light blue eyes. the scary kind. I had to go with cliche ice blue eyes. Do you know the actor Neal McDonough? ( I believe he was last on Desperate Housewives) He has ice blue eyes and extreme blond hair. I've heard these kind of eyes called witches' eyes, as well. That works, because she is considered mad and I don't mean angry.

    I have yet to find an actress/model photo to use for her template.

    My parents and I have green eyes. nothing like the photos above either. My younger son has really beautiful green eyes with black lashes (when he started kindergarten, that's all the teachers would mention to me -how beautiful his eyes were.) Strangely, one of his eyes is 1/4 brown.

    There must be a hundred shades of blue, green and brown to choose from.
    My favorite is hazel. My older son has blue eyes one day, gray the next and green on other days depending on what he's wearing.

  2. My husband and boys all have simple chocolate brown eyes. But both my daughter and I have eyes that change color with mood. Hers hazel brown, often nearly gold, sometimes greenish, and mine a blue that can range from gray to turquoise to cornflower.

    Sexy sea captain in my first novel has that second pair of green eyes. In a guy face of course. Sometimes when referring to color or seeing someone's emotion in their eye I prefer to hone in with the word "iris" or "orb." Probably annoys some people, but I think it's more accurate.

  3. i've never understood the violet eyed heroes/heroines. it usually throws me out of the story. the only time odd coloring in eyes works for me is in the fantasy/paranormal genres.

    i've plain, dark brown eyes. nothing special. so does my son. i had hoped he'd get my husbands beautiful eyes - the hazel type that change hue according to what type of clothing he's wearing.

  4. I described my hero's eyes as being the color of blueberries.

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips once described a character as having eyes the color of a grape lollipop. People have purple eyes? I guess I've never seen them, although I've heard Elizabeth Taylor has them.

  5. Violet eyes don't bother me. They do exist. I did read a stastic about it being surprisingly high in Great Britain. We must not forget Liz Taylor. It's really a type of blue hazel, I believe. But it's been overdone in the romance genre. Haven't actually read it in a long time.

    Genetics experts have recently discovered that more than two alleal (SP) are involved in creating eye color. Used to think it was just two, but not so. For a while, the overnment on things like passport applications would change green to hazel. Wrong. Green is its own alleal.

    Alledgedly two blue-eyed people can't produce a brown-eyed child. My sister's eyes, like mine, are green. Her husband's eyes are hazel. Three of their children have blue, blue, blue eyes, one nearly turquoise. One has brown. No one in either family has brown eyes. Found out a great, great grandmother right off the boat from Ireland had brown eyes and red hair and Lydia is a spitting image of her. (she's also 5 ft 11 and s thin she lookslike she doesn't eat, but she is a fabulous cook and loves food. Why did those genes pass me by?)

    I wanted brown eyes. When I wore contacts, everyone preferred dark blue on me to my natural green. Go figure.

    But I try to make eye color realistic in my characters and suitable to their personalities.

  6. I think there are more purple eyed people in romance novels than on planet earth. Just sayin'.

  7. What fun. I'll never write eye color again without thinking of this.

    Out of curiousity, I googled eye color images. That is a freaky result to suddenly have all those eyes staring at you!

    My eyes are two different colors. One is blue and the other is more hazel. My mother says it happened after a high fever as a baby. Doctor says that's impossible. ;)

    I remember a boy I had a crush on staring at my eyes and remarking, "They're two different colors!" As I wallowed in his admiration, he added, "My dog has eyes like that."
    /end romance

  8. Elizabeth Peters (in her Amanda Peabody mysteries) describes the hero's eyes--first person by his loving wife Amanda--as sapphirine orbs. She does it enough that it's comical but very true to Amanda's character so we accept it and move on.

    Personally I consider mine the color of algae. Probably won't use that in a book.

  9. I had a friend who was very into wholistic medicine and taught me how our eyes actually show our health history. Some of that cloudiness or brown discoloration can actually point to health issues and old injuries. Also the lines in our eyes mean different things. It was fascinating and seemed quite accurate.

    She used Matthew 6:22-23. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

    Anyway, it makes perfect sense that one eye could be discolored by a fever.

  10. "I have been meditating on the very great pleasure a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow." Pride and Prejudice, Darcy to Miss Bingly

    No specific color, no distracting food (or drink) references, just brilliant writing.

    But, as I am a lowly mortal, I must, alas, get out the swatches...

    Thanks, Gina, this was really fun!

  11. Thanks, Dina!

    I'm sticking with the fever causing it.

  12. Gray-green. I saw a taxi driver once with long flowing honey-blond hair and the most incredible gray-green eyes framed with long smoky gray lashes. I couldn't help thinking he would look perfect on the cover of a novel. Preferably mine. I have tried to recreate those eyes on more than one of my heroes.

    Fun topic, Gina. I must confess, eye color in books has never bothered me.

    I have never seen silver eyes on anyone except one actress from the 70s. I can't remember her name, but her eyes looked like the ones Deb described as being scary.

    I used to work with a beautiful woman who is a Pacific Islander. She has the prettiest brown eyes. But she used to cover them with colored contacts. Blue, purple, green. The strangest shades of blue, purple and green. I must confess the first time I saw her with colored contacts (purple) I felt a shiver prickle at the back of my neck, the way it does when you get unnaturally spooked.

  13. Mary C, I think Jane Seymour has two different colored eyes.

  14. Fascinating conversation! You did well with your snippets and pictures, though I have seen eyes a little more lush that I picture Dominick's eyes from Lady in the Mist - sort of like my husband's and son's eyes who have amazing brown eyes and lashes. My other son has vibrant blue eyes that change a bit in the light. My men give me good examples for my characters! As for me, brown eyes that have grown lighter, more hazle with age. I think my ill health through the years has been a factor in the change. My dad, after his heart surgery, went from blue eyes to grey eyes.

    The think that drives me buggy is when the author gets overly ambitious in trying to find creative ways to describe eyes all within one novel. I have seen the brown eyed person described with all variety of coffee, amber, chestnut, copper, mahogany all in the same story. What color are they anyway? Distracting. I think once you establish eye color you needn't say it over and over again, just occasionally.
    By the way, Ruth Axtell Morren's description is awesome - I still remember that from reading the book years ago.

  15. Ack! I got so busy working on my novella that I forgot today was my blog day. I'm so not multi-taskable.

    Deb, I wish Neal McDonough was in more stuff. First time I saw him was in the movie Timeline. Only he'd darkened his hair.

  16. Let's see, Dina, if your hazel-eyed daughter marries my light-blue-eyed son, think of the pretty eyed babies they'd have.

    Good thing we already arranged their marriage.

  17. DebH, I know what you mean about eye color that jolts you out of a story. Sea-foam green eyes? Thus my post today.

    The middle school pastor at our church has the most compelling eye color. Not hazel. Not gold. But literally hazel on the outside then fades to gold. I'd been meaning to take a picture for this post. Alas, I kept forgetting.

  18. Oh dear, Lisa! Eyes the color of a grape lollipop.

    Elizabeth Taylor's eyes are purpleish blue. But that's a rare color.

    Hmm. Grape lollipop.

    How does an author top that?

  19. Laurie, you brought up a good point with contact lenses. When my oldest son wears his, his eyes are brighter, almost glistening. He's been accused more than once of being stoned. Poor kid.

    When Child #4 was choosing glasses, he begged and begged for me to buy him contacts instead. Which ones? Hulk eyes. *sigh* We chose green glasses instead.

  20. Oh, MaryC, what a funny yet heartbreaking story.

    One of my high school sunday school teachers had one blue eye and one brown. Was born that way. Took me a while to look at her and not stare at her (odd) eyes.

  21. Deb, if your hero is a horticulturist, then I can see him describing the heroine's eyes as the color of algae. Not romantic, but certainly fitting.

  22. I had a friend who was very into wholistic medicine and taught me how our eyes actually show our health history. Some of that cloudiness or brown discoloration can actually point to health issues and old injuries. Also the lines in our eyes mean different things. It was fascinating and seemed quite accurate.

    She used Matthew 6:22-23. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

    Wow, Dina!

  23. Cheryl, that is a great Austen quote. This post has got me thinking that it's not so much the color of a character's eyes but how the viewer feels looking at them.

  24. Oh, Suzie, I know what you mean about colored contacts. Sometimes they just look spooky.

    I don't mind ones that accentuate a person's natural eye color. But when they're so . . . dramatically different.

    I remember working with a girl who had tawny eyes. Not quite mustard yellow. Not quite light brown. Just somewhere in between. Since she was part native-american, the color was a beautiful contrast to her skin tone and black hair.

    One day she wore her glasses to work.

    Plain true brown eyes.

    She seemed less exotic.

  25. Carla, I tried to fine male brown eyes with darker, longer lashes. No success. But I thought the color was fairly close to the description.

    Good point about authors changing the color description in a book. I know I've come across a few of those . . . and wanted to say, "What was wrong with just saying brown!?"

    The snippet Ruth gave me is actually longer than what I shared. Lemme find the whole exerpt becasue she did a fabulous job.

    Geneva found herself looking straight into the bluest pair of eyes she’d ever seen. They were the blue of the open ocean off Ferguson Point after the morning fog burned off and the noon sun hung high overhead. Not a cloud diminished the hue of the vast, flat expanse of sea then, but its inky blue depths sparkled with a thousand lights and depths from the reflecting sun.

    Captain Caleb’s eyes danced with a mixture of concern and amusement. It wasn’t the sly amusement of the onlookers, she realized, but a companionable sort, as if he and she were sharing some private joke. Their wry twinkle was telling her that he had been in a similar predicament in another time and place, long ago enough to look back with humor.

    Wow! Now that's how to layer in eye color and make it more than just about eye color.

  26. Grape lollypop> Now that is a great example of purple prose.

  27. Enjoying the eye conversation. Here is a quote from my first novel. These are the eye's I think would look like the second set in Gina's post.

    He towered over me, forcing me to tilt my head far upward to meet his gaze. He almost reminded me of William for a moment, but the resemblance stopped at his eyes.
    Unlike William’s warm brown orbs, Lucio’s were green and fathomless like the sea. One could stare into those eyes for days, and still not find the bottom of them. They were mysterious like the sea, laughing one second and cruel the next. I shook off the spell and looked back out towards the shore.

  28. Fun post. I'm a basic brown-eyed girl, but my husband has the loveliest green eyes. I'd have described them as seafoam, Gina -- snort. They are sort of that grayish/bluish light green.

    Dina, that is true about the eye vein stuff: it's a form of Chinese medicine, I believe. Someone may have better info on that. As a favor to someone years ago, I submitted to a non-invasive holistic health-thingie where they analyzed the veins in my eyes. From mapping my eye veins, they said my right kidney is weak and so is my liver (which is why I'm eating beets!) but they also wanted to sell me hundreds of dollars in supplements. I have nothing against vitamins or herbal supplements, but I took this person's amateur diagnosis with a huge grain of salt.

    I try to make healthy choices, but I also don't spend much time looking at my eye veins because frankly, it stresses me out.

  29. Dina, that picture #2 certainly matches your passage. Nicely done!!

  30. Susie, I should do a follow-up post. Each Inky sends a picture or two of the most unique eye color in her family. Or somehow past several pictures into one picture. I should try the latter with my kids, hubby, and me.

    That got me thinking. Do eye colors change with what we wear? Or does our eye color stay the same but the clothing combination causes the viewer's perception to change?

  31. I maintain actual changes have more to do with mood, although clothing can bring out specific shades.

    For some reason in my business cards my eyes look bright turquoise. Who am I to complain? They are nearly that color sometimes, although I don't think they were on that day.

    Also, the study of health through the eyes is called iridology, if anyone is interested.

    Can you tell I'm wasting a lot of time today. Kids have a half day of school. Lord only knows why.

  32. Iridology. Hmmm....

    I sense a blog post on that in the future. Hop to it, Dina!

  33. I bow before the almighty Cleopatra.

  34. I seem to come across a lot of gray/grey eyes in fiction, but I'm not sure I've ever seen truly grey eyes in real life: light blue, light green, light brown or any combination thereof, but not grey. Have you? I love eyes--Fun post, Gina!

  35. I saw some of the coolest, most beautiful eyes of my life in Sweden. Very pure and crystal blues and greens, and I do think I remember some grays. I wondered if it was because of less sun damage.

  36. Julie I think grey/gray is one of the phases of hazel. I know my son's have looked gray, very washed out at times.

    It's fascinating to consider this -do they change or is it just our perception based on the lighting and the colors reflecting around them.

    Maybe it's the H2O. A body of water has so many colors of blue, gray and green and it doesn't really change but it's all about lighting, so maybe eyes are the same.

  37. My youngest has blue-gray eyes with a navy ring around the outside. Depending on what she's wearing they look more gray, but, still, they're blue basically.

    I can't say I've ever seen actual gray eyes.

  38. Iridology. Don't you think that would be an interesting occupation for a heroine in a suspense? Hmmm.... I like it.

    Seriously, in all the Anatomy and Physiology classes I've taken, we have not discussed anything about the eye vein thing. I find it totally fascinating.

    And Deb, I do think you're on to something with the eyes reflecting light like the ocean does. Seriously. Especially when you consider how much water makes up our bodies.

    And I'm laughing at myself because I don't know how many times I've compared my hero's eyes to the ocean. I think probably every hero in every one of my books. And yes, I've even used seafoam green. In fact, there's this story I'm working on now... Um, I think I might have to change the color of my hero's eyes... Oh, dear.

  39. Gina, I keep forgetting to add that the last picture, right above Laurie Alice's description.... Strangely enough, that looks like my husband's eye. LOL!

  40. It's not so much eye color descriptions that make me think "Is this possible?" It's when I'm in a guy's POV and he describes the heroine's eyes in flowery language. Most guys only think in about a half dozen colors. Ask your favorite guy what color mauve is and then watch his face go blank.

    Which reminds me, I have my hero in my latest work noticing the heroine's "moss green eyes" -- which might have worked had he been a guy who hung out in the woods. Probably not such a good description for a retired naval officer, huh? (But "Eyes the green of the algae that filmed water left in the barrels too long" doesn't convey the same romantic interest ...)

    Oh, and my eyes are green like #1.

    (I started typing this comment about 8:30 this morning, and I'm just now getting around to finishing it. Bad, huh?)

  41. Oh my. The comments on this post were as entertaining as the post itself!
    CJ, you definitely have a point, and that could be a blog post in and of itself -- dealing with the male POV from a realistic standpoint.
    Algae? Deb, really? I once described my daughter's eyes as "pond scum." They are greenish hazel with a brown ring. No, she hasn't forgotten my comment. What was cute is that when it came up in discussion her then-future hubby said "I like pond scum" in all seriousness. We laughed all the way home.
    My eyes are brown. Just brown. All the cool people had blue eyes, so I never wanted brown eyes. Hubby's eyes are blue. Child #1-hazel. Child #2-gray/blue. Child #3-brown. Child #4-blue. Go figure.

  42. Pond scum works for me, Niki. I guess I need to go look in the mirror. I might go with Evergreen. that does sound much nicer.

  43. To be honest, when I'm reading a book, I tend to skim over elaborate descriptions of things like eye color. LOL! So I tend to be short and to the point with my descriptions. Light blue, dark blue, gray, green. Yeah, that's about as descriptive as I get, except I did say Lord Hamlin's eyes were as dark blue as a woodland pool. That's the only time I can remember using that much description for eyes! Although, the hero in The Merchant's Daughter only has one eye (the other is covered with a patch) and that presents its own challenges. You can't say "his one eye" very often because it can sound really creepy! LOL!

  44. But I enjoyed the post, Gina!!! Thanks for putting up my snippet. :-)

  45. Julie, I have a hero with gray eyes and before using it, actually researched it to see if it is possible. Yes, it is. I won't go into biological reasons why, but they do exist. I think they fall on the blue scale, but it's possible.

    I have a seacaptain hero, CJ, who uses the moss green description, but he wasn't born to the sea, wen to sea later in life, and it reminds him of land, where, in truth he wants to be.

  46. This is a fun topic. In my book Shadowed in Silk I purposely chose not to tell the color of my heroine's eyes, but instead focused on what the hero was attracted to---the way the outer corners of Abby's eyes tilted upward, as is she were a small Celtic queen standing on a misty cliff. And his gray eyes turned to shades of lead when he was upset.

  47. I must add that I personally have the blue hazel eyes, which some people have called Ƨrystal eyes. Not sure why, but my hazel eyes turn colors on what I'm wearing or what's around me. So sometimes my eyes are gray, sometimes dark blue, and sometimes green. Go figure. And when I'm tired they disappear practically.

  48. Gina, thanks for sharing that excerpt from Ruth's book. Ah, what a writer!

    I've been sing "My Father's Eyes" since you mentioned it! "Eyes full of compassion"... now that is another way to describe eyes, not simply on color.


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