LESSON Kill the Purple Prose and Revive Your Descriptions!

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Minibit, Aug 6, 2013.

  1. Fatalrendezvous posted an exercise in descriptive imagery which you should try!

    But first, I want to talk about CONCRETE IMAGERY vs PURPLE PROSE

    If you're unfamiliar with these terms, here's some quick examples and explanations:

    CONCRETE IMAGERY
    is the use of solid, direct description which the reader can immediately picture and identify, it is usually aimed at the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.

    PURPLE PROSE
    Is an over-do of poetic or whimsical descriptors. These start to become purple prose when they are used to describe everything, and the story takes on an ephemeral feel with a pompous tone.

    Writing with poetic or whimsical descriptors is not a bad thing, but when it goes to the level of Purple Prose, it is generally frowned upon

    • Purple Prose is when you use poetic or whimsical descriptions for EVERYTHING, and therefore nothing stands out
    • Description tends to get a bigger reaction out of a reader when it is written in words he or she can INSTANTLY understand and identify with
      - 'Bright red' instead of 'The colour of glittering rubies'
      - 'ran away' instead of 'fled speedily, taking the distance in great strides'
      - 'moonlight' instead of 'luminescent glow of the night'
    • Poetic or whimsical descriptors should be reserved for that which actually needs to be shown as extraordinary.

    • Purple Prose attempts to make everything sound attractive and poetic; but it's often a more relatable descriptor to say a character gagged, or coughed, or squinted, or stumbled, grabbed, or flailed, even if it doesn't sound as pretty.

    For this workshop, take one of the sample scenes below and transform it into concrete language: Reword, remove words, add words, do what you need to change the writing style.

    Show Spoiler
    Warm rays of light filtered into the room through the bamboo blinds, falling on Jennifer's peaceful visage. Softly, her eyes fluttered open to face the morning, and her lips parted in a prodigious yawn. The breath caught in her throat as her limpid azure eyes fell upon the alarm clock - a quarter to eight.
    "I'll be late!" she exclaimed, springing out of bed and crossing the room in two strides to reach the wardrobe. Speedily she selected a black pair of slacks with a silver hearts detail on one leg, and a deep, ruby-red V-neck T-shirt to accompany it. Selecting a hairbrush from her dresser as she passed, she straightened the spun gold of her head and replaced the instrument before fleeing through the door and kitchen area, and into the dewy morning. She contemplated, as she continued to sprint at a measured pace toward the bus stop, that it was a shame she had to rush through the beauteous ravine short-cut with it's towering trees and carolling, early-riser birds.


    Show Spoiler
    The great roar and ringing of steel and iron sang through the battlefield like a death charge, although the trumpets had long ceased. the ruby-red of his very life force meandered down Krystor's forehead, and his eyes fluttered wildly to keep the liquid from marring his vision. His muscles strained and flexed under the burnished bronze armour which gleamed in the waning sunlight; he put his entire weight behind every stroke of the bloodied longsword, dancing the steps of the warrior's last stand as he ducked and dived through the fray of antagonists. And then suddenly, there was an obstacle; his blade was caught in a lock with his enemy's; and he placed the flat of his palm against the warm steel to strengthen his grip; his leather, steel-plated boots sank into the muddy turf as he pushed, and clear drops of sweat rolled from his temples to splash on his shoulders. Without warning, pain bloomed between his shoulder blades; spreading white fire through his neck and spine and shoulders and heart. He gave a strangled cry as his arms lost all strength and his blade clattered uselessly to the ground. He felt the knife in his back give a twist, and saw, hazily, as if in a dream, the point protrude from the front of his chest before the world faded to obsidian


    Show Spoiler
    "You gonna CRY now?" jeered Elise's antagonist, towering over her slender form with a grotesque grin on his face. "Look everybody, she's gonna cry!"
    Elise's throat tightened, and she felt her cheeks flush a deep red of shame. She hugged herself, holding her slim arms close to her form as crystalline tears brimmed in her chocolate-brown eyes. A rough hand jerked her chin up, just as her small nose wrinkled in a sniffle.
    "Ahahaha! You're actually crying? Crybaby!"
    Tears rolled down her rapidly warming face as she spun free of the mean boy's grip and fled across the green, grassy playground of her Elementary School. The mocking cries echoed after her, accompanied by the chimes of many children's voices; laughing in the cool morning. "Crybaby! Crybaby!"
     
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  2. I just hacked away the pieces I thought were purple prose. Thanks for sharing. Now, I'm more conscious with my writing. Not sure I did this one justice though.

    Show Spoiler
    "You gonna CRY now?" jeered the boy, towering over her shaking figure. "Look everybody, she's gonna cry!"

    Elise's throat tightened, and she felt her cheeks flush with shame. She hugged herself as tears filled her brown eyes. A rough hand jerked her chin up just when sniffled.

    "Ahahaha! You're actually crying? Crybaby!"

    More tears rolled down her cheeks. She spun free of the bully's grip and fled across the grassy playground of her elementary school. The mocking cries echoed after her. "Crybaby! Crybaby!"
     
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  3. You did fine :) The exercise was in identifying purple prose and replacing it with more concrete descriptors, and you did exactly that
     
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