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Friday, September 18, 2015

 

Friday Speak Out!: Writing Tip: Add Body Parts

by Kay Rae Chomic

We all know writing is rewriting, right? Do you utilize the boredom test, which is simply reading your work out loud with naked honesty? This test helps me face up to a dull paragraph, a dull sentence, or a dull chapter ending—none of which a publisher wants to see. Highlight the dullness to fix later. We don’t want to encourage yawns.

What’s the fix? One fun way to jazz the slow sections is to add body parts.

Draft: He couldn’t float and cried like a failure when I put a life vest on him.

Final: He couldn't float and cried like a failure when I put his arms through a life vest.

What do you think? Does adding ‘arms’ make it better?

I write fiction and non-fiction. One of my favorite writing teachers at the University of Washington was Priscilla Long. In her Advanced Fiction Writing class, she provided a myriad of tips, and adding body parts was one I especially liked. From her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: “Body parts ground writing and increase its visual and visceral impact. Merely increasing the number of body parts can improve a story.”

Here are two more examples from my writing—draft sentences, and published work with body parts:

Draft: I had given up downhill skiing for ten years, returned to it, and after two runs, I got my groove back.

Final: I had given up downhill skiing for ten years, returned to it, and after two runs, my legs and hips returned me to slalom-mode.

Can you feel the action?

Draft: He wiped his face with the bottom of his T-shirt. She looked into his red-rimmed brown eyes.

Final: He wiped his face with the bottom of his T-shirt, removed his hemp bucket hat, and fingered its frayed rim. She placed a hand on each of his cheeks and looked into his red-rimmed brown eyes.

This couple was at a reconciliation point, and I believe the reworked version added intimacy.

Moving away from my writing, here are two published examples from The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd:

• I had come barefoot, collecting dew on the soles of my feet.
• I pulled the last one off the shelf and opened it across my lap, thumbing through the pictures.

Imagine those two sentences devoid of body parts. Blah!

Lastly, from my book tour, one passage I read from my novel always got a laugh:

"…when Par had her own built-in swimming pool, she made a practice of swimming nude every day… Par’s mother had one thought about skinny-dipping: chlorine up one’s vagina would cause infertility. Par had loved proving her wrong…"

I found I enjoyed saying the word, vagina. Who knew?

Hope you’ll try this exercise—keep in mind this tip is pepper not salt. I’d love to hear if adding body parts to your writing gets your fingertips to dance on the keyboard!

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As a late-blooming reader, and an even later-blooming writer, Kay Rae Chomic experienced the thrills of publishing her first novel, A Tight Grip (She Writes Press), the year she turned 60. Retiring from a career in business, she’s now focused on her passions of writing, volunteering for youth literacy programs, reading, golfing, and traveling. She makes an effort to age with sparkle and humor.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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5 Comments:

Blogger Eric W. Trant said...

That's a great way to think about something many of us play by ear. I do this in my own writing, but subconsciously. I want the reader to feel, hear, taste and smell the story, not just ~see~ it we are in the habit of writing. Our eyes are ruthless dictators on our senses. We need to encourage our hands and toes to show up to the play, our stomachs and intestines. It's about immersing the reader and dragging them into your darkest, deepest depths.

I like this idea, and will remember this lesson moving forward as a formalization of something I had never really thought to characterize as such.

Add body parts. Brilliant. And here I thought this was a zombie post.

- Eric

5:53 AM  
Blogger Kay Chomic said...

Eric--Thanks for your comment. I appreciated its heart and humor. LOL came up deep from my gut at your last paragraph!

10:18 AM  
Blogger Sioux said...

Kay--Thanks for the post. I will have to try your "body part" tip.

(And I LOVE the "pepper, not salt" concept. Brilliant.)

1:45 PM  
Blogger Sioux said...

Kay--Thanks for the post. I will have to try your "body part" tip.

(And I LOVE the "pepper, not salt" concept. Brilliant.)

1:45 PM  
Blogger Kay Chomic said...

You're welcome, Sioux. Thanks for your comments!

8:59 PM  

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