What’s up with the “rolling of eyes” phenomenon in practically every other work of fiction I read these days?
I first noticed it in a medieval romance. The book started out well enough. A likable heroine I was happy to follow along on her quest to find “true love”. But then, half-way through, she rolled her eyes. No problem. Everyone rolls their eyes sometimes. But then she did it again. And again. And again. Until I found myself groaning with each repeated “roll” and a hair’s breadth away from throwing the book against the wall in frustration. But I hung on tight and kept reading and otherwise enjoyed the story through to the end.
A few fiction and non-fiction books filled my reading interim, and I forgot about this “flaw” in an otherwise well written and enjoyable book.
Then I picked up the first of a young adult vampire series which shall remain nameless in this blog. I enjoyed the first volume without complaint. But to my dismay, in volume two of the series, the eye rolling began again. Only this time it was worse than the medieval heroine’s romance. Instead of the heroine rolling her eyes every dozen pages or so, almost all the characters in this nameless vampire book rolled their eyes on what felt like every other page, until I wanted to scream, “Stop, already! Can’t you think of some other facial expression to use, for variety’s sake?” This book was much too hefty to be tempted to fling against the wall. I was afraid I’d sprain my wrist and have to pay to fill in the inevitable hole so large a volume would undoubtedly leave in its wake. (I hoped the eye rolling might be toned down in the series’ subsequent volumes, but alas, that hope was in vain.)
Another fiction book or two, completely lacking in eye rolling, restored my equilibrium at the end of the vampire series. But then, a few weeks ago, I picked up a Regency romance, and what did I discover? A hero who rolled his eyes again…and again…and again…reviving the barely smothered scream described in the paragraph above. (This time the wall was only saved by the fact that I read it in my sister’s apartment and didn’t want to stick her with the bill for repairs.)
So, what’s up with all the eye rolling in novels these days? Is it a reflection of authors who watch too many smart-alecky kids on TV who constantly roll their eyes at their TV-parents? Is it living with kids of their own who constantly roll their eyes at their author-parent? I don’t have any children of my own, and I don’t currently watch TV shows with smart-alecky kids, so it’s truly a mystery to me.
Regardless of the answer, to me the bottom line is, any action repeated ad infinitum in a novel—eye rolling or any other gesture—is a sign of sloppy, or at least, careless writing. The characters in my books aren’t much for eye rolling, but it’s possible I have my own too-frequently-repeated mannerisms of one sort or another. If any of my critique partners catch me falling into this trap, I pray that they’ll stop me in my tracks and say (nicely, of course), “You’ve used this expression twenty times. Can’t you think of something else?” Trust me, I would count such a critique partner as worth her weight in gold!
But back to my original question. I’m not writing this to throw stones. I wouldn’t be so annoyed or baffled if each of the authors above had chosen a completely different mannerism to repeat (over and over and over). But the fact that all of them chose eye rolling begs the question I began with…what’s going on with the “eye rolling phenomenon” in fiction these days?
Can anyone fill me in?