January 24, 2010

Subject: Describing Physical Reactions

I ran into this paragraph while I was reading "The Truth About Dino Girl," Barry Lyga's story in Geektastic:
I never knew that being in love was a physical thing. I never knew your body reacted. Like when I saw Jamie and my stomach felt like someone had tied lines to it and pulled it in ten directions at once. Or the way I suddenly became aware of myself, of my body, when I sat across the aisle from him in bio--the way I felt my hair and my eyelashes and my lips and my nose and every motion of my body as I breathed, hyper-conscious in every way (p. 302).
Describing physical reactions is hard to do. So often, when I'm describing physical reactions in my writing, I tend to fall on standard phrases, like "my stomach knotted" or "she realized she was holding her breath." Lyga helps us understand Katie's sensations by using a fresh comparison (stomach pulled in ten directions) and by narrowing in on her hyper-consciousness.

Finding a precise way to describe physical reactions requires attention. This week, as a challenge, I will pay more attention to my own physical reactions--when I'm stressed, when I'm happy, when I'm tired, when I'm hungry--and try to describe them in precise, fresh ways.
I recently started A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. It's been on my to-read pile for a while now. After Lips Touch: Three Times, I've been craving books with rich writing. In A Northern Light, I love Mattie, the narrator, as well as the way Donnelly creates mystery by alternating between Mattie's current experience working in the Glenmore hotel and her recent past.
Although many more books lie waiting on my to-read pile, I'm on the look-out for other YA books that combine great plot with fantastic writing. Any recommendations?


  1. Heather--I just read THE SKIN I'M IN. It is great! Deadly Little Secrets is really good too.

  2. Thanks for the recommendations, Sharon! I'll check them out.