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--12 August 2017 --

Quote: Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest of hearts. --Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

The Fellowship

September 16, 2010

Purple Prose

Every writer, or almost every writer, says purple prose is the dragon of death and you're to avoid it with your whole being. I differ somewhat and that is why I am here today.

Purple prose is explained as being too flowery, ornate, and over the top. Some people say it takes the emphasis off the plot and puts it on the writing, others say it disrupts the storyline and causes the reader to stumble. Yet I love purple prose. The depth of description that I find in long, lavish paragraphs of this forbidden art seem to entrance me into writing it myself. Am I a bad writer because of that? I don't think so; a portion of purpleness is needed to accompany the chunky, meaty scenes of your plot. Without that melodramatic poofiness, I fear my heart would fall apart.

So what is wrong with purple prose? Well, it can get you off track; if you start dipping into your scenery and pouring the oil all over how the flowers look, then...well, I'm afraid the reader wouldn't be very interesting. But you see, some authors are so great at writing purple prose that they make the story seem more real than anything.

For instance, Stephen Lawhead's second book of The Dragon King Saga is said to be purple. I read several complaints on Amazon about how he delved too deeply into the scenery and other unnecessary descriptions. To those people, I say "Pooh, pooh!" Lawhead did an excellent job! His prose was beautiful; it captivated my imagination and brought each scene alive in my mind's eye. I only wish I could write as he writes.

A famous example of purple prose can be seen in this excerpt of the first sentence from the novel Paul Clifford, written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. 

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
 Do you see anything wrong with that? I find it beautiful! Just look at all the senses Edward is activating in that sentence. It just draws me into the story, and I love it when that happens.

So now I want to know your opinion on purple prose. What do you think of it? Do you like it? Admire it? Hate it? Despise it? Do you enjoy reading/writing it? Let me know in a comment :-)

Written in a Scrawl,

Squeaks.

10 comments:

  1. I enjoy a certain amount of purple prose, but I've read the occasional book that had too much, The Fall of Lucifer by Wedny Alec being a perfect example. I found that book (and its sequel) "wordy" and it was hard to follow the action at time. Yet the books were very well written and quite enjoyable. Now I'm confused as to whether I like it or not. . .

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  2. I read The Fall of Lucifer too! I suppose I must be a very odd person, because I absolutely LOVED it :P I found the descriptions to be wonderfully exhilarating. I was so into that book that I even read it two more times :P So there you go; I guess it's just me that is odd lol!

    Squeaks.

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  3. I will linger over passages of purple prose like an artist staring at a painting. It's wonderful if it is done right, and I think it is what makes a story. If the story is more important than the words we use to tell it - we might as well watch a movie. The words are why we have books!

    OK, sorry about the pontification... *sheepish smile*

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  4. What ho! I didn't know "it was a dark and stormy night" actually came from a real book... Anyway! I, actually, don't care much for that paragraph. The words are lovely, but the punctuation, specifically the dash and the parentheses, trips me up so I can't get hold of the rhythm.

    But in general, I think I like purple if there isn't too much of it. Some authors can go overboard, and it messes up the flow.

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  5. I enjoy passages of purple prose, but only to a degree. The real trick is getting your purpleness split into several sentences instead of one endlessly-long one.

    In my oppinion, the example you gave was really too long. If it had been split up just a little bit, I probably would have absolutely loved it.

    But I do love to write like that, and I love to read that stuff too. It really brings the beauty out of the scenery, or adds a little extra -- something that I can't think of the word right now -- to the story. :)

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  6. lol, I did not know there was a name for it... but I usually tend to skip all description. Just totally jump over them. I do it when I'm reading aloud to my younger siblings, too, and they never seem to notice... BUT, despite that, I've just started noticing lately that sometimes when I actually take the time to stop and read it, it's really, really pretty! Because I'm so good at skipping it now, I enjoy a lot of books that other people tell me are horribly boring... but I suppose I could take the time to read it a little more. :D

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  7. I think the problem is when the writer fails to immerse the reader in the prose. Purple prose, as in, the kind of prose that flows and immerses you in the scene, is amazing when done right--but it is ENORMOUSLY hard. :)

    When I think I'm writing beautiful description, I check myself and find that it's all a collection of crammed adjectives. But REAL good purple prose is the stuff that uses personification etc. to accomplish the goal--not a collection of big words. I could almost write a blog post on this! lol.

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  8. @ Liz, no problem :) I like that word, by the way...pontification...it has a nice ring to it, lol!

    @Lady Greenleaf, yes I too dislike the punctuation. As Star-Dreamer (aka Nichole) mentioned, it probably could be set into two paragraphs.

    @Star-Dreamer, I agree. Prose shouldn't go on for an endless sentence. It just takes the beauty out of the writing. If it's purply but has good punctuation and breathing then I think most purple prose would be well admired.

    @Katherine: Description is the best part of the story! XD I too used to be an action-aholic lol; I'd skip scenes, but when I began to do my own writing I realized that a writer learns the most when they read the "boring" parts of an author's tale.

    @Jake, I'd love to read what you have to say on this topic (in other words, I'd read a blog post if you did one XD). Purple prose is sometimes defined as a collection of big words. I don't like big words...the smaller the words are, the better. For instance, terms like silver, dripping, blossoming, and winging can be used to define items that normally wouldn't be attached to those words. Finding new ways to describe something that elicit a new feeling from the reader is more or less my goal for writing prose.

    Squeaks.

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  9. Ohh...a new feeling via an interesting word? Ohhh... I may just post on it. :D Thanks, Squeaks!

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  10. oh! I love purple prose! I love seeing what beautiful images authors can dream up! It's so beautiful and magical! I *love* purple prose!

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