Musings on the writer's craft

There’s a word in Spanish…to gaze, to stare, to ogle, to leer

There’s a word in Spanish that I love. And there just doesn’t seem to be a perfect English equivalent.

As an author, I try to show my character’s emotions through their body language and interactions with other characters – following the maxim, show don’t tell. But as I work through the revisions on the sequel to A Scarlet Fever, I’ve frustrated by the paucity of synonyms for ‘to look’.

To look

I find my characters look at each other a lot. But they don’t just look. They’re a suspicious, distrustful, untrustworthy lot apparently. In many cases, the manner in which they look at other characters is summed up in my mind by this phrase in Spanish: de soslayo or al soslayo.

To look sideways

Picture of a man looking sideways
‘To look out the corner of one’s eye’

Okay it’s actually a phrase, but it’s such a wonderful phrase. If I recall correctly, which I might not, mirar al soslayo means to ‘look at sideways’. But al soslayo just sounds like the looker is more doubtful, more questioning or more sinister. There’s a certain look that comes to my mind when I think of this phrase; granted, it may not have that connotation to a native Spanish speaker at all.

To look out the corner of one’s eye

Searching for alternatives, I’ve been spending some time on, and I suppose I can console myself with some of the English options to replace ‘to look’, all with slightly different connotations.

To peep, to peek, to peruse, to peer
To gape, to gawk, to glimpse, to glare
To scan, to squint, to sight, to stare

But, for me, there’s still no real equivalent of al soslayo…oh, maybe to look askance, she says to herself, looking sideways.

Do you have any favourite words in languages other than your primary language?

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