Welcome to my Q and A where today I’m featuring author/blogger and grammar guru Kathy Steinemann with her new release – Writer’s Lexicon series – The Writer’s Body Lexicon.
Kathy Steinemann, author of the popular Writer’s Lexicon series, is a bird-loving grandma and retired ex-editor from the land of Atwood, Shatner, and Bieber. She loves words, especially when the words are frightening or futuristic or funny.
Ordinary writers describe the body in order to evoke images in readers’ minds. Extraordinary writers leverage it to add elements such as tension, intrigue, and humor.
The Writer’s Body Lexicon provides tools for both approaches.
Kathy Steinemann provides a boggling number of word choices and phrases for body parts, organized under similar sections in most chapters:
•Emotion Beats and Physical Manifestations
•Similes and Metaphors
•Colors and Variegations
•Verbs and Phrasal Verbs
•Clichés and Idioms
Sprinkled throughout, you’ll also find hundreds of story ideas. They pop up in similes, metaphors, word lists, and other nooks and crannies.
Readers don’t want every character to be a cardboard cutout with a perfect physique. They prefer real bodies with imperfections that drive character actions and reactions — bodies with believable skin, scents, and colors.
For instance, a well-dressed CEO whose infrequent smile exposes poorly maintained teeth might be on the verge of bankruptcy. A gorgeous cougar with decaying teeth, who tells her young admirer she’s rich, could spook her prey. Someone trying to hide a cigarette habit from a spouse might be foiled by nicotine stains.
Add depth to your writing. Rather than just describe the body, exploit it. Build on it. Mold it until it becomes an integral part of your narrative.
“… a timeless resource: You’ll find advice, prompts, ideas, vocabulary, humor, and everything in between. But more importantly, it will make your characters stand out from the crowd.” — Nada Sobhi
Review from Amazon.ca:
“Books 1 and 2 of The Writer’s Lexicon series already reside within easy reach as I write, and I’m pleased to say that book 3 has joined them as a ‘must have’ reference book. If you’re an author (new or veteran), pick up a copy of the series — you won’t be sorry.” ~ J. I. Rogers
My 5 Star review:
Reviewed in Canada on July 31, 2020
If you thought you knew words, you’re in for a big treat with this almost 500 pages of action-packed book full of alternative words and phrases to make your characters come alive and help readers create believable characters. How many ways can we express body parts, gestures, prompts and humor? Steinemann will arm you better than any thesaurus.
The author expanded her blog post of lessons for writers and created this absolute must-have resource guide, aiding in better descriptive writing in this 3rd and comprehensive book in her Lexicon series for writers. We’ll also find words that keep the action going as well as idea replacements for similes and metaphors that AREN’T cliche, with loads of examples under each body part heading. Steinemann helps writers to choose appropriate adjectives and verb tenses – eg: If you say your character has tanned arms while the setting takes place in winter, you’ve used the wrong adjective unless a reason is presented for the tanned arms. The author demonstrates how to eliminate unnecessary words with suggested word replacement. Plenty of prompts are also given as well as: opinion words explained, hyphen use, how to incorporate color, use of props for description, use of word variation pertaining to the character’s description – example: you may use the word ‘porky’ for a bully, but the word wouldn’t go over well if a husband were to refer to his wife with such word.
This book is a fantastic edition to describe all parts of the body from head to toe, also offering ideas to set up a character chart to list all attributes of characters, ie: shapes, appearance, flesh tone, etc. Each chapter begins with descriptions, examples of word usage. Steinemann also talks about caveats, eg: perception of the writer’s view needs to be made clear for readers. The writer may know what she means to relay being privy to the character’s thoughts, but make sure the reader is informed too.
The Writer’s Body Lexicon is succinctly written into sections for each body part, covering verbs, variegation of color, shapes, idioms, cliches, metaphors, similes, comparisons and more. A must-have resource guide for all writers!
Now that you’ve had a little sampling of Kathy and her amazing writer resources, let’s get to know more about Kathy and get her opinions on writing rules, self-publishing and more!
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
The urge to write was always a part of my life.
As a child, I created stories and accompanied them with pictures.
In fifth grade, I won a contest sponsored by an agricultural college. I can still remember the opening sentence: “Calling all cars, calling all cars.” Vague recollections of how the police tracked down weeds come to mind, but the plot has disappeared after all this time. And no, I won’t say how many dec— years have passed since then.
During secondary school, I placed in a couple of speaking contests, wrote for the high school newspaper, and submitted a weekly high school news column to the local paper.
D.G. – Wow, to think you began with writing for the school newspaper. But so not surprised.
Do you agree with the general consensus that writers are loners?
It’s difficult to retain focus or get any writing done if a myriad of activities takes writers away from their writing cave.
However, savvy authors must interact with the world. How can they write about what it feels like to travel by air if they’ve never boarded a plane? How can they describe the scent of churros in the air at Disneyland if they’ve never been there?
But time away from writing is never truly time away. An active mind is always thinking about the next story idea, the subplot of a WIP, or a way to make X or Y happen.
D.G. – I totally agree Kathy. A writer’s mind never really sleeps.
What’s your opinion on self-publishing?
The good: Self-publishing provides unprecedented opportunities for writers who might otherwise be unable to find an agent or swing a book deal. In fact, some famous authors have switched to this platform or a hybrid model.
The bad: The ease and speed of the process often results in poorly written books with a surfeit of plot holes, typos, and formatting inconsistencies. This has given self-publishing an unsavory reputation.
Fortunately, most online sales outlets allow potential buyers to read the first part of a book before they order.
Tip: If you want to support brick-and-mortar sellers, evaluate books online first. You’ll know what you like and what to avoid before haphazard strolls through local book stores.
D.G. – I couldn’t agree with you more. Also, I think since the stigma of shoddy Indie work began, many want-to-be writers are learning how poorly shoddy work reflects on their work, and are taking in the advice.
Do you have any advice you can share for new writers?
Yes! Learn the rules. Understand why they exist before you make a conscious decision to break them.
Stephen King doesn’t like adverbs — but he uses them. Occasionally.
Mark Twain detested exclamation points — but they appear in his work. Often!
Kurt Vonnegut loathed semicolons; however, he used 41 per 100,000 words.
Stephen King’s opinion of adverbs: “If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day … fifty the day after that … and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.”
Mark Twain’s take on italics and exclamation points: “But the teller of the comic story does not slur the nub; he shouts it at you — every time. And when he prints it … he italicizes it, puts some whooping exclamation-points after it … All of which is very depressing, and makes one want to renounce joking and lead a better life.”
Kurt Vonnegut on semicolons: “They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
There is one incontrovertible rule, however: Sloppy punctuation and grammar makes writing difficult to understand. Difficult to understand = lost readers.
D.G. – Loved all these quotes from some of the greats. I’m a firm believer in the first one: we must learn the rules before we can acceptably break them.
What are your writing goals for this year?
I released The Writer’s Body Lexicon at the beginning of July. Based on what readers found there, a couple of them have asked me to publish a color lexicon. Putting the cart before the horse, I designed the cover already. Now for the research.
I also have a sci-fi anthology in progress, and I’d like to write more short fiction and poetry for literary journals. My overarching problem is always lack of time. There never seem to be enough hours in a day to get through my to-do list. Maybe I should try to clone myself or discover a wayto survive without sleep.
Any inventors out there?
D.G. – Hello! I hear you loud and clear! I think all us writers could use a clone, lol. And fabulous you are already working on the next installment for the Lexicon series.
Who is your favorite author and why?
My favorite author changes occasionally. Right now, it’s James Dashner, writer of The Maze Runner series. His narrative is imaginative and easy to read, without purple prose or excessive backstory. Short chapters and regular scene breaks make his books convenient to devour in spurts — a plus for anyone with a hectic lifestyle.
I finished the Maze Runner books first and then watched the movies, which weren’t as good as the books. Are they ever?
Diana Gabaldon is a close second with her Outlander novels. I prefer less sensory detail than she provides, but the storylines are riveting. And the writers of the Starz Outlander TV series deserve their own kudos.
D.G. – I’ve heard so much praise for Outlander series. In fact, I’ll be reviewing a book this Sunday that many reviewers tout reminded them of that same series! And I have to say, my favorite kind of reading is short chapters too.
If you weren’t a writer, what else do you think you would do?
I’d love to work as a CGI artist, to boldly go where no CGI artist has gone before, to create worlds for shows such as Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and Maze Runner. And what could be better than to travel to another planet, solar system, or galaxy for ideas? Impossible, at least for now, but a person can dream.
Second best: Create colorful word pictures that transport readers to new galaxies and realms of imagination. Earth is where I am, and where I’m likely to stay. It’s not a punishment, and I enjoy my hectic life as it is.
D.G. – Sounds ambitious. But I think you can sign up now for a trip to Mars? 🙂
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A serial comma fan, she provides word lists, cheat sheets, how tos, and sometimes irreverent reviews of writing rules at:
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