Purple prose is the devil. It’s described as flowery, overly ornate writing that takes away from the story. New authors tend to think that the purple devil makes their writing sound gorgeous, deep, and intelligent. In truth, it makes all of this untrue.
Read this example:
Megan flushed with overtly bright happiness, which was on obvious juxtaposition against the overly gray, sad day because today was, finally, her dreamed about fairy-tale ending with her perfectly perfect dream man.
She happily dragged herself out of her luxurious 500-count Egyptian cotton, blue and sea foam sheets, bedspread, and duvet. Her satin pillows hung vicariously near the edge of her crumpled bed sheets as she lingered just on the edge of her bed and watched the sunrise. The ornate pillow jewelry made her skin feel cold as she leaned back in bed.
Megan happily rubbed her swollen and puffy eyes.
Today is my wedding day, she thought as she dragged her brown orbs to her closet that had a door standing open just enough to allow her intricately and expensively designed Italian designer wedding dress play peek-a-boo with her overwrought but excited and yet deep emotions.
Harry was to be her husband in a few short hours, and she pondered what life would be like as a Mrs. instead of a miss. Suddenly her egregiously joyfully happy mood plummeted to the depths of Hades as she realized that she would be losing her independence that day.
“This is my last morning as a single lady,” she bemused as she threw her hand up to impersonate the talented Beyonce from her video single ladies.
“All the single ladies…All the single ladies…all the single ladies…let me see you put your hands up,” Megan sang in her chipped and clunky soprano that wanted to desperately mimic the clarity of a Disney princess…
In a word awful! Who wants to read all that? Better yet why do new authors think readers want to read all that? What successful book reads like this? (Don’t confuse literary style with purple prose.)
Well, as an author I’m not sure why I ever thought any of that was good writing, yet I wrote like that. I used too many words, said nothing in way too many words, and tried to use my entire vocabulary in every paragraph. Then I learned better.
Purple prose is not good writing! Master writers are concise, clear, focused, and every word and action have a point that they add to a book! Such a simple idea that many fail to get.
Here are a few rules to keep the purple devil away from your book.
1. Use the simplest word possible.
2. Say what you mean instead of using a lot of words that say nothing.
3. Make every part of the story have a point.
4. Don’t use the same word all the time.
5. Understand that all of the above makes your book sound amateurish and unintelligent.
6. Bonus: Don’t use suddenly or all of a sudden in a novel.
Master writers write on an elementary school-age level. They don’t write college papers with fictional content! The more complicated the writing the fewer people will read it.
Here’s the breakdown. Many readers are low-level readers, so they don’t want to read anything that taxes their brains. For web info or nonfictional content, they’ll skim. When it comes to reading books they’ll put it down and ban that author from their library. You want the reader to swallow all you write and beg for more. Purple prose will make them choke.
Even high-level readers want easy to read fiction. In truth, the easier to read the book is the more intelligent people think an author is. Stephan King writes on an eighth-grade level, yet no one questions his intelligence.
Think back to a pompous writer. Didn’t you feel like they were overcompensating? They probably were. Purple prose is the devil, remember that kids.
As for my bonus point, suddenly is not purple prose, but it is bad writing. Authors who think purple prose is good writing tend to use suddenly in their novels. So stop doing both if this is you.
That’s it. Short and simple, but I’ll leave you with the better version of the example. Happy spell crafting, folks…
My independence dies today.
Megan’s eyes opened before her mind understood she was awake. A smile drifted across her full lips as she swiped a messy tendril of brown hair off her face. Megan’s heart rushed to pump blood through her body. Her palms tingled and her belly fluttered.
The gray clouds hid the sun, but nothing could trash her mood. Popping up into a sitting position, she threw back her Egyptian cotton sheets. A tiny section of her designer Italian wedding gown played peek-a-boo from her closet.
It reminded her of Harry, her fiancé. The way he’d pull the covers over her face every morning just after they’d wake up.
"My last day as a single lady.” Megan slumped and her heart dropped a bit too. Her career and family had always been her life, but romance had snuck up wrapped in the cutest, funniest accountant. How odd that her perfect man was an accountant, but that was Harry. Loving him was like experiencing her childhood Christmases every day.
Megan threw her hands up and pursed her lips. “All the single ladies… all the single e ladies… all the single ladies…put ya hands up….” She slid off the bed to recreate Beyonce’s iconic video.