Monday, April 25, 2022

The Writer's Body Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann – Book Review

The Writer's Body Lexicon: Body Parts, Actions, and Expressions by Kathy Steinemann in the third book in The Writer's Lexicon Series. Each book offers a wealth of information to help writers write and edit their books.

This review is loooong overdue. I read The Writer's Body Lexicon before it was published and had the honor to write its Foreword. :)

The book opens with a "Read this First" section, which explains how to use the book and where readers can find what they need.

Like many books about writing, The Writer's Body Lexicon is an encyclopedia-like volume. It will be very hard to read it all at once or as if you're reading a novel.

"Sometimes a figure of speech adds the perfect touch. Exercise caution, though. Provide enough imagery to stimulate the imagination, but not so much that you slow action or bore readers."

To get the most of The Writer's Body Lexicon, determine what area of the body you need help with and look it up.

Regardless of the book or blog post you're reading, Kathy Steinemann will always point out that you don't need to "bloat your writing with superfluous words."

"Note that a frown on one’s face can be shortened to a frown. No point in bloating your writing with superfluous words."

The Writer's Body Lexicon covers everything from opinion adjectives, stacked modifiers and how to arrange them, colors and variegations, facial expressions, body parts (and the naughty bits), and much much more!

I also like Steinemann's use of other authors' quotes in The Writer's Body Lexicon. She quotes Ovid and Stephen King and offers writing tips from them.


The Writer's Body Lexicon quote by stephen king


If you're writing a fantasy novel with muscled-warriors, you should definitely check out the "Body Build Cheat Sheet" chapter. (p. 86)

And don't forget the part about the abs, here's a tip from Steinemann:

"Abs, abdomen, stomach, waist, midsection … No matter what you call this area of the body or how you describe it, well-chosen words will strengthen your writing.

Abs often occupy center stage in romance novels. They also appear in historical fiction where scantily clad gladiators compete for their lives. And let’s not forget bikini-wearing beach beauties stalked by monsters in horror stories."

If facial expressions are your weak spot – I know they are mine – you may want to visit the relevant chapter. As an author, you don't want your reader to tire of repetition. Sometimes you don't need a facial expression where the dialogue suffices.

The Writer's Body Lexicon - Library image
The Writer's Body Lexicon and coffee in my library :)

I was recently reading a book where the main character "raised her eyebrows" over 35 times!  You can imagine how exasperated I was while reading it.

As a reader, I see lots of 'eyebrow raising' and 'nodding' and 'eyes widening.' So before you get your book published be sure to check out the chapter on Facial Expressions. Hint: It starts on p. 45.


“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow.” – Ovid

Although Steinemann offers hundreds of word options and descriptive alternatives in each chapter, she also encourages writers to create their own words like "flubbery --> flabby + blubbery" or "brawnilicious à brawny + delicious."

Think of The Writer's Body Lexicon as your go-to resource for descriptions, colors, and everything related to the body. 


The Writer's Body Lexicon - book quote

Steinemann goes on to offer suggestions and indicators for writers to use when they want to create a descriptive and emotional scene. In the section "Effective Writing Agrees with Itself," Steinemann says this: 

"In real life, scowls, smiles, and curling lips reflect underlying emotions. They should do the same in fiction or creative nonfiction.

A protagonist in pain is unlikely to smile. A deceitful character probably won’t maintain eye contact with others."

A tip: You want to read the section on colors and variegations starting p. 32. 

There are soooo many useful tips in The Writer's Body Lexicon, I feel like I can quote the whole book! And it's over 500 pages - so there's a wealth of tips in there. 

I also read the first book in this series The Writer's Lexicon, where Steinemann offers tons of word replacements.

Authors: You no longer have to say 'said' every time a character says something. Steinemann has over 200 alternatives to 'said' and many other verbs in The Writer's Lexicon. 

To learn more about The Writer's Body Lexicon, check out its Table of Contents.

Discover all 3 books in the series via Kathy's blog and I highly recommend you subscribe for weekly writing tips, prompts, and her redundancy quizzes :)

Get The Writer's Body Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann via Amazon.

Overall rating for The Writer's Body Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann? 10 stars. 

1 comment: