book reviews / characters

Book Review: The Writer’s Body Lexicon

I’ve devoured both of Kathy Steinemann’s pithy writer’s help books, The Writer’s Lexicon Vol. 1 and 2. I received her latest–The Writer’s Body Lexicon–as an ARC and it now occupies pride of place on my how-to-write virtual bookshelf. It covers descriptions and details about bodies and so much more. It’s available on Amazon tomorrow–June 30, 2020. Here’s my review:

The Writer’s Body Lexicon

by Kathy Steinemann


You may know Kathy Steinemann by her other excellent writers’ help books, The Writer’s Lexicon VI and II (click for my reviews). In this her latest book, the 500+ page The Writer’s Body Lexicon (2020), Steinemann focuses on one of the more difficult parts of writing for authors: describing the human body in a way that brings it to life.

She begins the book with what she calls the ‘Body Build Cheat Sheet’. Here, she helps you describe the human body’s appearance, weight, height, physique, and conditioning, including metaphors that bring them to life:

“His body was his weapon, plowing through the players until he reached the goal.”

Under ‘Body Parts’, she includes among others:

  • arms, legs, backs, buttocks, chests, breasts, chins, ears, elbows, noses, and more
  • abs
  • body parts: the Naughty Bits
  • breaths and breathing
  • colors–how to write them so they are interesting
  • facial expressions
  • voices

In each section, she thoroughly discusses everything about them from the perspective of someone who must write it. Let’s take ‘arms’ for example. Steinemann includes:

  • emotion beats and physical manifestations such as aggression, alarm, distrust, and satisfaction
  • adjectives describing arms
  • similes and metaphors for arms
  • colors and variegations
  • arm scents
  • arm shapes
  • the versatility of verbs and phrasal verbs
  • props for arms
  • cliches and idioms (like ‘babe in arms’ and ‘shot in the arm’)

That’s amazing, don’t you think? But there’s more. She also digs into opinion adjectives, the descriptive words that “…express the personal bias of a character or the narrator, a bias that may not be shared by everyone.” These are adjectives to be aware of in case you want to avoid them, depending upon your audience. In this highly-charged, woke world, this was one of my favorite parts.

If you want your characters’ bodies to go beyond the narrative of appearance, to become a vehicle to build tension, intrigue, and humor, this book tells you how to do that with word choices and phrases organized under clear categories.

Who should buy this book? Writers of course but also bibliophiles, sesquipedalians (like me), and anyone who considers themselves a logomaniac–a person obsessively interested in words. It officially publishes June 30, 2020 at a discount for the first month or so. Grab a copy and feel your writer power glow.

More writer’s help books:

2 More How-to-Write Books

Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing

A Writer’s Coach

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning


77 thoughts on “Book Review: The Writer’s Body Lexicon

  1. Pingback: How I’m Doing on Laws of Nature 3 | WordDreams...

  2. Wow! What a unique angle for a writing instructional. I will admit, expressing body language and physical description in prose is really hard without resorting to cliché. Great recommendation, Jacqui!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Book Review: The Writer’s Body Lexicon — WordDreams… – liza854

  4. I usually google facial expressions when I feel I’ve repeated myself too many times, but I’ll admit I never considered how many parts of the body I could use. The criteria under “arms” alone seems fascinating. I can’t imagine the work the author put into building such a list. Congrats on the release, and thanks for sharing, Jacqui.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I rely on the Emotional Thesaurus on occasion, but this sounds even better! What a great find, Jacqui, and thanks for sharing. Describing people and body-action is a necessity, so it’s great to have a new way to do it and think about it. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Thanks Jacqui, Ordered the book. Sometimes looking at a blank page and wondering how do I show rather than tell how this person looks and feels. Nice.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. When i read one of these type books, I get all enthused, and eager to go…. then…. after about a week, when every old muscle is saying “Just walk to the computer”, I realize why I like research so much! 🙄

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Jacqui, what an excellent and most unusual book to aid one’s writing! I am definitely intrigued and can see this being very useful. Thank you for sharing and also for teaching me a new word for the day – sesquipedalian!! Love it!😀

    Liked by 2 people

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