The Romance Writers' Phrase Book (Perigee Book) Paperback – 1 Sep 1988
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Lists evocative phrases that can be used by novelists to describe people, body movements, facial expressions, voices, emotions, colors, thoughts, and memories.
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Top customer reviews
When you're writing a scene, you can look up the category, and there are dozens of phrases. You can use them as they are (one or two at the time - hopefully nobody is so stupid to cram them all into their scenes) - or rephrase them in your own voice. As a writer, I like this idea. It could be practical and inspiring.
My serious complaint is that the phrases are such poor writing. Instead of imaginative phrases, they are dull and boring. Usually 'he/she/it was [adjective]'. or 'He/she smiled/looked/walked [...]ly and [...]ly.'
These are exactly the phrases we writers try to weed from our own writing and replace with better
ones. Which means, the phrase book isn't going to help much with that endeavour.
The authors seem fond of the word 'tapered'. Everything 'tapers' in this book: fingers, hair, shoulders, legs, waists...
I was annoyed that when I looked for a way to paraphrase 'smiled'. 'Smile' is one of the most overused verbs in beginning writers' manuscripts' . So it would be helpful to get some alternatives. I found not a single synonym or paraphrase, only lists of adverbs which can be tacked to the smile. An overused novice flag combined with an adverb... that's a double blunder, and the book encourages it.
Now, let me give you a taste of what's in there. Here's a selection.
Are you ready? I advise you not to drink while reading this. You may laugh so much that you sputter coffee over the place.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS - MALE
>His long, sturdy Viking legs<
ahem, I suppose for some novels it might fit.
>He stood tall and straight like a towering spruce<
I can't visualise it, though the alliteration is nice.
>He towered over the other men by a full eight inches<
Ok, step off that chair now.
>the rich outlines of his shoulders strained against
A refreshing change from women's bra-less breasts straining against the fabric.
>Reflected light glimmered over his handsome face like beams of icy radiance<
Are they describing a snow man? I can visualise a carrot nose in this face.
>Dark eyes framing a handsome square face<
Uh? I can see hair framing a face, but eyes?
>His thick hair tapering neatly to his collar <
I'm citing this just as an example of the book's taperititis.
>He had a monopoly on virility.<
Uh? Oh? Ah.
>He was even more stunningly virile than ever.<
>She found herself extremely conscious of his virile appeal.<
>He was as eager and erratic as a summer storm.<
>his closeness was so male, so bracing.<
>she felt drugged by his clean and manly scent<
It gets better, just wait... :-)
>he grasped the neck of the heavy muslin nightgown<
I suppose this might work in the right context and setting, though it wouldn't endear the man to me.
>She inspected it quickly, then looked up suspiciously<
Hmm. If anyone suffers from adverb-deprivation, this sentence would sort it out.
>He swung her around, revealing her slender legs and thighs.<
That's some kind of swing.
>She remained absolutely motionless for a moment<
The editor in me wants to cross out the 'absolutely' as absolutely unnecessary.
>A tremor touched her smooth, marble-like lips<
That's a bit purple-proseish for my taste.
>His grin was irresistibly devastating<
Hm. I like the grin, but I don't like writing.
>His laugh was low, throaty<
>his laugh was scornful<
>his laugh was triumphant<
A helpful phrase book would show how to *avoid* the 'was+adjective' phrases.
>His eyes gleamed like glassy volcanic rock.<
>A twinkle of moonlight caught in his eyes as he glanced at her<
>olive-black eyes, unfathomable in their murky depths<
I'm suppressing giggles here.
>Her eyes moved upwards to his broad chest.<
Child's point of view?
>He said firmly<
>He said matter-of-factly<
and so on: more adverbs on a single page than
greenfly on a Chinese cabbage leaf.
>her voice rose an octave<
I'm trying to remember how much an octave is. A lot , I seem to remember. I don't want to hear it.
>tears were gone, as if evaporated by an onrushing wind<
>she had no intention of permitting herself to fall under his spell<
>the heavy lashes that shadowed her cheeks flew up<
>A tense silence enveloped the room<
I could imagine 'filled' - but enveloped? From the
Lots of anger phrases:
>He looked at her with a sardonic expression that sent her temper soaring.<
>Mercifully, the moonlight hid the extent of her embarrassment<
I can't visualise how the moonlight hides this or anything.
This is by far the fattest chapter in the book. If you're looking for help with your erotic scenes, let me warn you that most phrases taper totally with stunning virility around tantalisingly sensitive nipples.
I don't think the following quite suit my style. Not even after they've been put on a low-adverb diet.
>She tried to throttle the dizzying current racing through her<
his glance slid rapidly to her bathing suit and his mouth softened<
>she was totally entranced by his compelling personage<
>she moved toward him, impelled involuntarily by her own passion<
>he was even more stunningly virile than she remembered<
>she felt an immediate and total attraction<
>he pulled her roughly, almost violently, to him<
>the cruel ravishment of his mouth<
>his lips feather-touched her with tantalising
>their lips met and she felt buffeted by the winds of
a savage harmony<
>first he kissed the tip of her nose, then her eyes, and, finally, he satsifyingly kissed her soft mouth<
>his ardor was surprisingly, touchingly, restrained<
>his tongue tantalised the buds which had swollen to their fullest<
>The real world spun and careened on its axis.<
>She was fully aware of the hardness of his thigh brushing against hers.<
His <cough> THIGH?
Summary: This book may be useful for new writers who're find it inspiring to play with provided phrases and descriptions.
For a experienced authors, it's less a tool than a source of entertainment
However, this book help break through writer's block. Reading the lists helps bring other ideas to mind, and since some entries can best be judged as humorous rather than romantic (to my mind, anyway), laughter can at least break the tension of that "I'm stuck!" feeling.
Would I have bought this book? Never in a million years. But since I own it, I admit (with some shame) that I have flipped through it to jog my mind.
Using this book for all one's descriptives would be a recipe for disaster. It's my personal rule not to use any phrases from the book (or any cliches, period). But as an "assist," I've found it useful.
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Most recent customer reviews
Limits repetition with excellent alternatives to something already described.
I've already colour co-ordinated the pages with tabs for ease of refernce.
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