- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Random House Reference; Reprint edition (May 8, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375722270
- ISBN-13: 978-0375722271
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style Reprint Edition
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Plotnik, author of the well-respected Elements of Editing (1982), takes on the venerable duo of Strunk and White in this peppery guide to vibrant writing. Implying that Strunk and White's revered Elements of Style might be a little stodgy in its prescriptive approach to language, Plotnik advocates that writers judiciously bend the rules, "drawing on all levels of language to animate expression." To that end, he devotes 31 chapters to detailed analyses of the factors that make language sing. He is especially adept at providing exactly the right felicitous quotation to make his point and draws from a wide variety of writers. In discussing onomatopoeia, for example, he cites the "THROCK" and "SPLOOSH" of graphic novelist Mike Allred and also excerpts comedic writer James Thurber, who long ago was writing about tires that "booped and whooshed." In addition, Plotnik addresses such practical topics as the question of audience, providing a pocket guide to the different generations and their wildly varying approaches to the written word. Moving seamlessly between instruction and quotation, Plotnik's work makes for addictive reading for both aspiring and veteran writers. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
" . . .delivers what it advertises: a kick in the pants toward bold, contemporary style. . . . This will be the best ten bucks you've ever spent. . . . 5 of 5 stars" ---Jules L., 15 Nov., 2009 --Go, Go, Gatsby (gogogatsby.com)
"[A] book filled with wise advice, many belly laughs, and much inspiration. I re-read it from front to back at least once a year--and I dip into its pages from time to time as a way of recharging my writing batteries. -"The Five Best Writing Books No One Ever Told You About," Daphne Gray-Grant, July 2, 2013, Ragan's PR Daily: Europe
"[L]oving language doesn't mean we always understand how particular words or expressions work their magic. Personally, I really love it when someone like Plotnik can break it down for me, help me look under the hood to see how that writer I so admire has done it." ---Nancy Wick, The Editor's POV, Jan. 6, 2011
During my often misspent days at St. Edward High School, how I wished I had someone like Arthur Plotnik to spice my daily diet of Warriner's English Grammar and Composition, . . . I'm just glad I discovered Spunk & Bite after its debut lessthan a decade ago. -J. F. McKenna, Cleveland Business Review, July 2, 2015 clevelandbusinessreview.org/2015/07/02/the-art-of-messaging-today/#comment-10113
. . . the next step in a writer's evolution. In this age of increasingly short attention spans and overwhelming media input, writing must have "punch and vibrancy" to capture a reader's interest. This clear and entertaining instruction guide seeks to energize and liberate writers from outdated style conventions.
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Plotnik, noted author, long-time editor and award-winning Irish poet, wallops a homer with S & B. Consider a few of the subjects he spotlights with consummate verve: The Pleasures of Surprise, Words with Music and Sploosh, Enallage: A Fun Grammatical Get, and Writing for New Generations.
Most books of writing advice are about as appetizing as day-old pablum. Spunk strives vigorously to avoid pablumocity--and succeeds. Plotnik doesn't just write about spunky and biting language; he illustrates it in his own writing. Here's a sample from the section on onomatopoeia: "BZZZZ...RRRIP...NYEEOW. That's the sound of a writer's brain at work. When it comes to shaping experience into words, the brain box needs all the rhetorical tools it can hold. One of the oldest such tools--yet as contemporary as steel-cutting lasers--is onomatopoeia, a form of 'sound symbolism.' Like all power tools, it must be well-honed fitted to the job and used with extreme caution."
Throughout the book, Plotnik exhorts us to banish the bland, to inoculate against the insipid. He eschews dullsville writing and presents dozens of examples of bracing wordsmanship to chew on. As a bonus, he points us to a wealth of thesauri and a bounty of word-a-day web sites for further exploration.
Spunk & Bite is billed as "A writer's guide to punchier, more engaging language and style." It's all that...and quite likely the best writing book of the year.
Someone once asked a famous writer if he thought they had what it takes to make it and the writer replied, "I don't know -- do you love words?" Arthur Plotnik loves words and in this book he challenges conventional wisdom, preserves appropriate sacred tenets and invents some tenets of his own. Spunk & Bite is the kind of book I see myself revisiting cover to cover at least once a year or to simply open up to a random spot when I need inspiration. There's not a wasted page anywhere; a long overdue manifesto for contemporary writing.
You might think in the first few chapters of his book that Plotnik is showing off with a bunch of had-to-look-them-up-in-the-dictonary words (though admittedly, reading the Kindle version of this book with the device's built-in dictionary will be useful to the average reader), that is not the case. Plotnik just happens to be an intelligent teacher of writing. *Spunk & Bite* would make a cut above perfect textbook for any advance writing class. For any writer has control of standard grammar and coherent writing might find this book a worthy next course for taking writing to its most engaging level.
Nearly each page contains examples of how to use what is called *locutions, locutions, locutions* (my first introduction to the word)-- which means "to use a word, the turning of a phrase in some stylistic manner."
He explains how to use elements of surprise, diction, narratives tense, mouthwatering verbs, color, hot nouns from verbs, ephemeral imagery, stellar leads and stunning endings, and much more to add punch and juice to your writing.
If you've never used a thesaurus or specialized dictionary of words and lists, you'll see how and why as you read *Spunk*. Plotnik goes beyond the tired suggestion given to most writers: keep a thesaurus on your desk. No, he actually shows why and how word books can be useful.
I finished reading the book in about three days, and I suggest you might get more out of it if you give it a brisk first read and then come back to it again and again as a resource. Yes, I guess it could also sit right beside your copy of Strunk and White *Elements of Style*, if you you indeed even have read it in years.
I plan to work through the exercises at the end of the book just as way to review and practice the techniques he explains. For it is not just enough to read the book from cover-to-cover, but more importantly to practice what he preaches, argues, and demonstrates in each carefully crafted chapter.
Here's a break down of what he covers. The list comes from Plotnik's own website:
-- undoing an "E.B. Whitewash"
-- elements of surprise
-- describing the extraordinary
-- writing for Generations X, Y and beyond
-- stellar leads, stunning endings
-- choosing narrative tense
-- diction: be the word
-- freshening the vocabulary
-- words with beautiful music
-- coining great locutions
-- hot nouns from verbs
-- world-class words from abroad
-- mouthwatering verbs
-- better color for your colors
-- finding the names of things
-- intensifiers for feeble locutions
-- semicolons with confidence
-- niceties worth preserving
-- the feng shui of writing
-- "disinfecting" your prose
-- hunting down danglers
-- modifiers with minus effects
-- using ephemeral imagery
-- achieving "edge"
-- language and terrorism
-- whom we write for