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Book Review: Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style by Arthur Plotnik

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Spunk & Bite is an audacious attempt to go beyond the fundamentals of writing into the realm of style, wit, and compelling prose — something they have a hard time teaching in school. The book's name is a play on the legendary writer's guide The Elements of Style, often called by the name of its authors Strunk and White. Spunk and Bite is a follow-up of sorts, but is it up to the challenge?

In fact, it is. Well, sometimes. Spunk & Bite's talented author Arthur Plotnik half plays the part of inspirational go-getter and half plays the part of tactical manual. There are times when these overlap, and at those times the book reveals particularly inspirational bits of advice. At other times, the book serves as little more than a reference or a list of resources.

Spunk's wisdom comes in the form of eight sections. Their names are telling and should give you a good idea of what you're in for: Flexibility, Freshness, Texture, Word, Force, Form, Clarity, and Contemporaneity. Each section holds valuable nuggets to be mulled over. Ultimately, the real value is in realizing that not all writers are naturally gifted with a pen that bites the page or a spirit oozing with spunk. For those of us, most of us, who fall into this category, it's necessary to review our words and revise them with spunkier substitutes.

The challenge then, is to substitute styles, diction, and tone without making it obvious that they are substitutes for our own lazy way of speaking about the world. Spunk & Bite offers good instruction and a handful of good resources for the writer who finds himself looking at his writing thinking, "That could be better."

It can, and it will, with a little more spunk and a little more bite.

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