My character is looking around for someone, a bit scared. What can I say instead of, “My eyes darted around, expecting him to jump out from somewhere.”

3 Answers 3


If your character is the POV-person of the scene and you want to use deep POV you might experience (first hand) that your eyes dart around, but more likely you'd experience what your eyes see:

Where is he? Not at the door. Not the kitchen window. The staircase to the basement? Shit! I bet he's in the basement lurking! Hell! Did the hatch to the attic just move?


You could say, My eyes...

Swept the surrounds/surroundings

scanned on every side/all over

searched left and right/here and there

If you don't want to lose the rushing aspect of the scene, use contextually stronger verbs like darted or swept rather than searched or scanned, the latter of which would require an adverb to bring about some haste to the character's actions.


This is a quick description because you want urgency, both suggestions so far are great (inner monologue, alt verbage) but you can also say WHAT you are looking for, and give an idea of the surroundings and character, plus reaction as it seems to be first person (a reason to be in the room is always good, why go where you fear death?)

For example, as ex-miltary or someone with a little training:

"A glance into the room and I knew it was a kill box. Still, I had to cross. If he was there, I was dead, so I kept low, my head on a swivel, my eyes lifting every so often to the rusted rafters."

Not every bit of phrasing does everything, however, in how you set this up, this one thing, you can do/show several things at once:

How the character reacts to fear and what kind of person they are (do they leap to the light switch and pound that mother, only for it to occur to them that now the guy they are avoiding can see them now too? do they crouch? do they imagine shapes in the dark? do they wish they had night vision like their favorite superhero?)

What they are actually looking at, specifically (is this a typical suburban home now made nightmarish? are there rafters in this warehouse? you can do some very quick place setting--cause if they are looking they are seeing in the first person.)

What/who are they looking FOR? (the shadow of a muzzled gun--no, just a shadow from the fencing they are storing, are they looking in places only a person can hide? do they fight the urge to look in the kitchen cabinets because that specific person would not fit? even if you don't explicitly say, where they don't look and why shows us something)

What do they imagine? Do they imagine? (I'm not saying it's going to be a secret life of Walter Mitty up in this jazz, but where they look and don't look, what they do, will be based on what they imagine might happen, and what they imagine might be based on past experience or simply that it is a secret life of Walter Mitty all up in their heads, with a bit of real delusion for actual fear)

Basically, how they look and their headspace around that can show, not tell, the reader different things. This isn't just "a dude/gal that's afraid"--this is a specific dude/gal who is afraid in a specific context and specific place.

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