Wednesday 22 July 2015

Guest Post: Shelan Rodger on eyes and imagery - communication beyond words.

Eyes and Imagery: Communication Beyond Words
by Shelan Rodger

‘The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.’ This is a quote I love by Saint Jerome (best known for translating the bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin). Think of the eyes of children before they learn to control the way they look at people, or the eyes of lovers searching for each other’s souls. Think of our intuitive reaction to someone’s eyes and face the first time we meet them, or those moments in your life when eyes have spoken without the need for words.

My partner recently woke up from an induced coma after post-surgery complications. The first time he opened his eyes I knew that he couldn’t see. They see now, but the person behind them has not yet returned. Each day I look at his eyes before I speak.

In moments of intensity, we trust eyes more than words. Fear, anguish, shame, hatred, love, adoration…water from the well of emotions pours into our eyes in these moments. There are time-frozen images in my memory of the look in someone’s eyes at a crucial moment…I suspect we can all recall such moments in the stories of our own lives and relationships.

One thing that fascinates me when it comes to writing is the relationship between this subliminal communication through the eyes and the use of metaphorical language to reach beyond words on the page. I drive my wonderful editor mad with my use of non-idiomatic language, metaphors and ‘awkward phrasing’. He is wonderful because he always challenges me and I have learnt to reflect on what I want to keep and why. The things I keep are normally about reaching for unknown connections, creating associations, triggering emotional responses in the reader that straightforward, transparent, idiomatic language might not get to.

In Twin Truths, there is a rat that gnaws at Jenny’s feet. In Yellow Room, there is a battered fox on the side of the road, a locked toilet door, a cloth doll. Their emotional significance is developed with the narrative. But mostly there is just the occasional image or gentle jarring in the use of language to nudge the reader into meeting it head on and seeing something beyond the words. It is hard to quote out of context to show what I mean but I will try…

From Yellow Room:

‘She looks at her big sister with her brown-dog eyes that haven’t yet learnt fear.’

‘The elephant shadow of his parent’s disapproval hung briefly between them and she wished he could let her stroke it away for ever.’

‘Chala’s face is stone-still.’

‘Do you really want children Paul? Is it very important to you?’ She says it softly, wishing there was a way to paint away the knowledge of who she is.’

‘The words ‘I love you’ ached at the tips of her fingers, but a judge inside hovered over them with a guillotine.’

‘She watched a tiny hummingbird hovering and darting into the flowers of a frangipani tree. Shards of recent memory flashed at random in her head.’

From Twin Truths:

‘We looked at each other like strangers on a salt plain and I felt for a horrible moment that we were walking backwards, facing each other but walking away.’

‘I remembered the end of the evening like a beginning – the distant touch of soft hands in the night, and his manhood, waves on the shore inside me…’

‘I struggle with ghosts in my heart and delay my reply.’

I wonder if you noticed the same words my editor did. Our reaction to language is emotional and personal, and changes with context and time…I hope you enjoy whatever eye contact you have with the words in my books…


Buy your copy of Yellow Room on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads TBR

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