Alright, so I’ve written about zero to negative five entries that have anything to do with writing. Considering this egregious lacking of decent material, I think it’s high time I wrote a legitimate discourse on, I don't know, WRITING. Today’s rant will be on one particularly famous sin in writing that, for the longest time, I’ve had trouble overcoming: PURPLE. FUCKING. PROSE.
That’s right, everyone. That big, fat consonant phrase, purple prose. For the unfamiliar, novice, or just plain clueless, purple prose is a particular style of writing in which the writer gets a little carried away with his/her descriptions. And by a little, I mean EXPANSION RATE EQUAL TO THAT OF THE UNIVERSE carried away. This could mean a number of things; overly-descriptive, archaic language, obtusely intricate metaphors (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, FALL IN OUR STARS), and so on. I’d oblige to fetch more than a few examples from works that I know, but I believe that for this post to hold any value, I need to examine my own work. And thankfully, my latest piece offers more than a few violaceous sections to work with.
See here:The rocks vanished before a tempest of flame, their forms whited away by a ruby red death sentence.
Short, yes, but it’s simple enough of an example so that I can properly present my point.
Now, for those, eh… jarred, by that statement, I was basically saying that the rocks were consumed by fire, obliterating them entirely. However, it’s how it’s described that makes it purple prose. It’s not necessarily long, but it’s flashy. It’s gaudy. It’s UNBEARABLE for a sentence that’s simply describing a couple of pebbles being burned by a dragon. Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this.
The problem with purple prose is not just how flourished it is, but also, how it’s describing a detail that would be perfectly readable if written otherwise. Yes, it makes it sound far more interesting than it is, but most people aren’t aesthetic-whores that loaf around reading nothing because it doesn’t send them on an LSD-pseudo trip within the first five paragraphs.
Now, of course you’re asking “Well, what the hell do I do to avoid this?” This is where things get a little tricky. Purple prose is a lot like obscenity; the old “I’ll know it when I see it” phrase comes to mind when either topic is under scrutiny. And that’s also part of the problem. I pride myself on my expansive vocabulary, and I rarely know when I’m taking it a step too far. So what do I have to say to this?
Well, read your own work. If you spot a word or phrase that might be a bit too ornate, carve the edges a bit. I’m not saying dumb it down, but make it fit for the scenario. Every word in your work has a place; make sure they fit properly before you show everyone what you’ve made. If you don’t, I don’t think even Picasso will be able to decipher what mess you’ve made. Or maybe I’m thinking of Lewis Carrol… Ah, writing, painting; there’s not much difference.
So, that’s it for today’s rant. Feel free to ask me about any questions you may have. Heck, message me if you want me to talk about a topic or two. I MIGHT JUST DO IT. For now, this is The Wayword Writer saying GAH, MY FREAKING HEAD HURTS, WHERE’S THE ADVIL?!