The Writer’s Body Lexicon, by Kathy Steinemann: #BookReview.

629 pages

Editing Reference/Writing Reference.

Subtitled ‘Body Parts, Actions, and Expressions’ this book was written by the author in response to requests from followers of her blog, where she features articles about language use and its improvement of the skillsets available to writers.

Under the introductive ‘Read This First’ section, she explains how chapters are organised, defines in useful detail the various terms used, and lists the abbreviations and acronyms used throughout the book.

Each chapter is divided into several sections: ‘Emotional Beats and Physical Manifestations’, ‘Adjectives’, ‘Similes and Metaphors’, ‘Colors and Variegations’, ‘Scents’, ‘Shapes’, ‘The Versatility of Verbs and Phrasal Verbs’, ‘Nouns’, ‘Props’, ‘Clichés and Idioms’, and ‘Story Prompts’. And each chapter houses extensive listed suggestions of words to use. So you can see this is a comprehensive manual, and guide to choosing the exact word you seek when trying to convey a particular point to your readers.

The first chapter deals with ‘Opinion Adjectives’, a term which may be unfamiliar to some. These are descriptors that reflect the bias of a character or narrator. Kathy gives examples and explains how their use can influence the reader’s understanding of the character thus described. For example, one narrator may describe a character as a ‘fantastic’ or ‘talented’ dancer, where another, for personal reasons, may describe the same character as ‘bumbling’ or ‘amateurish’ when dancing. The reader may then be confused as to the reality, which might be what the writer intended, or the two narrators may simply be giving honest opinions determined by experience, level of knowledge, and their personal feelings toward that character. So much, of course, depends on pov (point of view). She expands on this aspect of writing, explaining the potential positives and negatives that may result.

The next chapter looks at ‘Stacked Modifiers’. For those who don’t know, these are lists of descriptors for a noun. The author explains the recognised sequence of such lists, why it’s important to stick to that order, and why you should limit the number of modifiers used.

The next chapter deals with ‘Colors and Variegations’, using a different subsection for each of twelve specified colours. Then comes ‘Facial Expressions’, which is subdivided into ‘Effective Writing Agrees with Itself’, ‘Frowns’, and ‘Smiles’.

There follow chapters on individual body parts, with a list of twenty-eight different physical bits of the body.

Kathy deliberately excludes what she calls the ‘Naughty Bits’ from these extensive chapters, perhaps aware of the dreaded ‘thumbed dictionary’ syndrome where teenagers have concentrated on rude words. Instead, she includes links to various websites where the reader will find ample lists of alternatives for the body parts most frequently embellished in erotic and some romantic prose and poetry. In the digital version of the book, these links whisk explorers straight to the nub. Those who prefer paper as their reading material will have to make the effort of turning on their chosen instrument of connection to the modern world and entering the appropriate URL.

There’s a final chapter on ‘Breaths and Breathing’, something we do autonomously, but that can cause banality in descriptive writing if we’re not alert to the clichés.

The book presents its information in an accessible, logical, and sometimes humorous manner, with light examples of misuse and much encouragement to experiment with expression. I’m using it now, as I complete my final edit of the WIP (work in progress) prior to my publisher setting his team of editors on it, in the hope of enhancing the reading experience for those who indulge me in buying it.

The digital version of this book is available now. The paperback will be published at the end of June.

[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]

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