Attack of the overbearing body parts

Woman with a stomach ache
© Juergen Sack/istockphoto

For some reason, my first drafts tend to be dominated by one body part, and it’s probably not one you’d expect, considering I’m a romance writer.

I hadn’t realized I had a bullying body part until one of my beta readers returned her incredibly helpful comments on the novel manuscript I wrote last year. Throughout the manuscript, she wrote “Stomach again” and “Gut again”. My characters experienced all their emotion and tension in their bellies. Their stomachs twisted and ached. Clenched and heaved. Tightened and rolled.

When I told people I wanted to write gut-wrenching emotional romance, that wasn’t quite what I meant.

The odd thing is that last year, when I wrote this manuscript, I was under a hell of a lot of pressure because of family illness and unrealistically big work commitments. I told my husband at the end of the year—when the pressure began to ease—that I’d had a stomach ache for about ten months. The pain hadn’t been debilitating, but a niggling ball of stress had lodged itself below my ribs and refused to shift.

When I saw all the places I’d relied on my characters’ tummies to show their emotions to readers, I had to laugh (a belly laugh, of course). Writing this story was the only way I’d been able to relieve some of my own tension. My writing time was the only peaceful time I had each day.

And apparently I’d achieved that peace by transferring my own stomach ache to my poor characters.

Are there body parts that dominate your early drafts? Do your characters carry most of their emotion in one place? Am I alone in transferring my stress to my characters? (Please say no!)


  1. Ha–I never caught the tummy troubles 🙂 I have eye ailments. My poor characters’ eyes roll, twitch, have inner throbbing, squint, blink and occasionally fill with tears.

    1. Funny – I haven’t noticed any eye repetition in your stories. 🙂 I’ll be on the lookout now.

  2. I know what you mean. When I was starting to cut back on smoking my characters ALL became smokers without my realizing it. Confused, angry, upset, flirty, whatever; all emotions corresponded to lighting up. I didn’t realize it until about a year later lol.

  3. Hands. I was just revising one of my manuscripts and they use their hands constantly! Motioning, picking at their nails, cracking knuckles, staring at their hands, touching, oh and biting finger nails. I talk with my hands, so I guess it’s just natural that my characters would too. Also – when I date a guy – first thing I look for is how impressive his hands are. HMMM…..

    1. Haha! I thought you were going to say you looked for a ring. 😉

      Funny how your gestures influence your characters’. I tend to talk with my hands, too, but haven’t noticed my characters doing it…yet. I’m sure I’ll notice hands all through my ms now that you’ve mentioned it!

    1. Funny, I’ve been reading through published novels trying to figure out how they avoid over-using the eyes to show characters’ emotions. It’s really difficult not to rely on eyes because they’re such great shorthand for a variety of emotions that most of us can interpret. Have you found any ways to avoid using the eyes, Tina?

  4. Lol! Loved this post! I have yet to read through my last manuscript but I’m guessing I’ll find a lot of eye action. The eyes are the windows to the soul, right?

  5. That is interesting and funny as well. I have also seen the constant use of certain phrases in my writing that I didn’t even know I used in my speech. Good stuff.

    1. Glad you liked it, Orlando! It’s funny how our writing can reveal so many details about ourselves we weren’t ever aware of, isn’t it? That kind of discovery is one of my favorite things about writing.

  6. This was funny, Katrina, so thanks for sharing. My overused body part has got to be the neck/spine. Hair on the back of the neck standing, tingles shooting down, veins pushing out, neck tightening, stiffening, snapping around to confront people. God!!! Now I have a complex ;O Raine

    1. Using the nervous system to show nerves – nice, Raine! Try not to have too much of a complex about it. Just fix it in future drafts. Easy, right? 😉

  7. Dang it…I came to invite you to my online launch party and got totally wrapped up in reading your newer posts and the archives. Before I get caught up in answering this, let me just quickly say that the launch party is on April 17th, blog party will be at and I’m inviting you because you’re one of the most awesome bloggers ever. ^^


    Eyes and head for me. >.< I actually like the idea of throwing a stomach in now and then…I'll have to switch it up for that.

    Don't feel too bad, Nora Roberts seems to use "Fisted" for everything in her key trilogy. (I only know this cause I've read each book carefully at least 10 times.) And if you want to include excessive word use, in the Furies series by Jim Butcher every 'dramatic' piece of dialog is said "Quietly."

    It's enough to drive you bonkers…

    1. Thanks for the invite! I’m flattered. I may be out of town this weekend, but if I’m not I’ll definitely stop by! And best of luck to you!

      Now you have me wondering in what context Nora’s characters fisted. 😉

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