Purple Prose


(That is a bell tower. It is loud and annoying, and I pretty much hate it. However, this is my picture of the bell tower I hate (plus some awesome trees). Not yours. Please don’t take it. T_T)

If you’re anything like me, then you love to describe things. I can write for pages and pages without a stitch of dialogue. And most of it’s better than the dialogue.

Purple prose is the annoying version of that.

“The extremely feminine, tall, thin woman barely leaned over to the delicate, purple flowers to drink in their intoxicating, fragrant, pleasant aroma, her long and luxurious hair just barely tickling the soft, airy petals as she did so on the glorious, sunny spring day.”

YOWCH. What a mess. I just wrote that off the top of my head, but that’s purple prose. It’s one thing to describe things, but that’s just overkill. Purple prose is when you go out of your way to excessively describe things in a way that bogs down the plot.

Dictionary.com defines it as follows:

noun writing that calls attention to itself because of its obvious use 
of certain effects, as exaggerated sentiment or pathos, especially in
an attempt to enlist or manipulate the reader’s sympathies.

That’s right–purple prose is often manipulative.

Take a look at the example I gave. Wow, look how beautiful she sounds. And she’s smelling a flower almost as lovely as she is! But what if she’s not a nice person? I could be trying to manipulate you into liking her just because she’s so beautiful.

So watch out for purple prose. If you see your friends using it, then try to steer them clear. Purple prose is often used to cover up the fact that the author doesn’t know how to tell a story or create an effective plot.

There’s nothing wrong with being descriptive. But remember–you have a limited amount of space in which to keep your readers’ attention. Better to keep the plot moving than overwhelm them with flowery images.

Your assignment: Find an example of purple prose that isn’t on the first page of a search engine’s results. Rewrite it into something more reasonable. Use your rewrite in something you spend at least 10 minutes writing.

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