What’s wrong with steel grey eyes?

I was in the process of transforming Alacia from a YA to a middle grade, and I came across this line:

“He didn’t remember the councilmember’s name, but she had steel grey eyes and a penetrating gaze.”

Now, if you know anything about Alacia, you know that it is about people who live in cities built directly out of icebergs. They spend their entire lives in these floating cities. As a result, they don’t have metal tools. In fact, steel would quickly rust. They wouldn’t know what steel is and would have no concept of “steel grey eyes.” Now, I’ve gone through this book multiple times, but somehow, I never caught that. Of course, this time, I was much more focused on Alacian culture. My protagonist is changing from sixteen to twelve, but in order to make the story to work, he has to be a man. Now, the solution to this is quite simple. Alacia has a coming of age at twelve, so the book will open as Kiviuq is becoming a man, which fits really well since it concludes with his apotheosis.

The thing to take from this is how important it is to know your story’s culture.  “Steel grey eyes” conveys pretty much the same meaning as “eyes the color of storm clouds” but one makes sense from the character’s point of view while the other doesn’t. It’s a very minor thing which almost no one would notice, but the things people would notices are often made up of the things people won’t notice. It’s just another example, and pardon the phrasing, of the iceberg effect. 90% of the iceberg is hidden beneath the water just like 90% of a world you build will remain hidden from the reader.

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