In defence of purple prose

I’ve been writing for a number of years now, but it was only recently that I heard the term, “purple prose”. Ever since then, I’ve heard it cop a lot of flak and I didn’t (and still don’t) understand why.

But firstly… what is “purple prose”?
Purple prose is a literary term used to refer to writing that is considered “flowery”, “ornate”, “decadent”, “elaborate” (and other synonyms).
(“Beige prose” falls on the other end of the spectrum, both in nature and in colour.)

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But, how exactly does purple prose differ from what is considered normal or plain prose? Is the normal, or acceptable, prose a weird combination of the colours then? If you’re a fan of this beigey-purple taupe prose, then that’s great. I’m totally on board. I love a healthy mix of the two as well. I simply want readers (and authors) to give purple prose a chance. Ask yourself why you dislike it. Is it a matter that you prefer plain prose, or is it the reputation purple prose has earned that is the basis for your utter disdain?

I have been told I write purple prose, and I have taken it as nothing else but a compliment. As a big fan of Romantic or Gothic style literature, I love emotive, descriptive, flowery writing. I have never considered it “over the top”, but a lot of people do. So this is where I cannot help but wonder, why is purple prose bad and where is the line drawn?

purple quill image
In my search for answers, I came across a paper entitled, “In Defense of Purple Prose” – a coincidence, I assure you! – and one particular part stood out to me:

“Certain producers of plain prose have conned the reading public into believing that only in prose plain, humdrum or flat can you articulate the mind of inarticulate ordinary Joe … This minimalist vogue depends on the premise that only an almost invisible style can be sincere, honest, moving, sensitive and so forth, whereas prose that draws attention to itself by being revved up, ample, intense, incandescent or flamboyant turns its back on something almost holy – the human bond with ordinariness” (West).

So, does this mean purple prose isn’t actually bad, but simply has earned a bad reputation?

I find West’s argument very interesting considering there is a theory that “purple prose” is seen as pretentious, or reserved only for a particular audience, and… is simply “wrong”. I hear more arguments of purple prose being elitist, than arguments of plain prose being lazy. As a reader, I want imagery, I want to be challenged, I want to be stimulated, I want to be immersed into the story, and I want to think, “Holy shit! That is amazing writing!” I want more than just a story. I find novels with purple prose able to tick all these and more.

Writing is one of those mediums where you can do no wrong. There may be some things that will make publishing difficult (James Joyce’s 100-word sentence may not take to a modern reader, and almost certainly wouldn’t be published today), or may turn readers off (change of tense/change of P.O.V.), but really, writing is flexible. Novels should have no formulae, especially not in how the prose is written. The most common piece of advice I hear is:

Write what you like.
And… you will find others that like it too.

To simply say that purple prose is “wrong” is kind of narrow-minded, in my opinion. And to completely dismiss a work because of purple prose is unfair. The most wonderful thing about purple prose is that anything can be made beautiful. I’m sure there is a writer out there that can even make doing one’s taxes sound exotic.

The problem is that all forms of purple prose are lumped together, whether they be good, bad, or ugly.

I have no qualm with minimalist writing. It is not my personal preference, but I won’t turn a book down because of it. I am currently reading a novel however that is very minimalist, so much so that there have been times where I couldn’t pin point where the characters were. “Floating heads” is the term, I believe (and I have certainly been guilty of that!). Anyway, this novel, which I won’t name, is really pushing me. I don’t usually give up on a novel, but I’m heading there. As I said, I’m fine with minimalist writing, but I feel like I need to be compensated in some way, for the loss of purple prose. I need a damn good story and plot! And no floating heads!

I need more beigey-purple taupe prose at the very least.

So, are the works of the 19th century, the Romantic/Gothic literary style dead? Are modern readers more interested in plain prose or minimalist writing?

I do believe that perhaps the addition of purple prose could have saved some of E.L. James’ descriptive writing. I know she is considered a “God” to some of you, but could you please put your pitchforks down for a minute? James certainly opened up the erotic fiction genre (although I do have some qualms with her methods), absolutely, but it would be great if we could at least agree on one thing: her writing was pretty poor.

“Now I know what all the fuss is about. Two orgasms – coming apart at the seams, like the spin cycle on a washing machine, wow.”

This is probably one of the most famous “bad” (or “funny”, depending on your perspective) lines of 50 Shades of Grey. This kind of descriptive writing is typical of “beige prose”, and could be saved with some purple. The writer should be more attentive to descriptive language so the reader can visualise everything. The use of “washing machine” is also very “beige”. It is boring, it is mechanical, it is cold. Some more decorative language could win me over.

West continues with a question that I think is truly valid,
“How many prose writers can you identify from their style?”

Just like you can pick up a Smashing Pumpkins song from their style, or a fashion designer, so too should you be able to pick up an author from their style of writing, at least I believe so. When I’m reading Marie Corelli or Lilith Saintcrow, I know I’m reading them. Lilith Saintcrow may be upset that I call her writing purple prose, as many authors find it a terrible thing, but I consider hers to be the definition, or my definition of “purple prose”. The A Tale of Beauty and Madness series is a great example.

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If not “purple”, then definitely a shade darker from the “beigey-purple taupe”. Corelli and Saintcrow have a very unique style and that’s why I keep coming back to them. Well, not Marie Corelli as she is quite dead, unfortunately. But the book I’m reading now? Anyone could have written it, in my opinion. There is no unique style. And that book is what I would label “beige” or plain prose.


What is your definition of “purple prose”? Where is the line drawn, do you think? Which authors do you consider “purple” and which do you consider “beige”?
What are your thoughts?

Let me know in the comment section below.


I recently came across an argument regarding the use of purple prose. It was said that purple prose is essentially the reader describing the story as if it were a movie. Every minute detail, dramatic action, and so on described. That is certainly an interesting point. I agree that being overly descriptive (ie giving too much unnecessary information) can be an issue, but I see a distinction between that and emotive, flowery writing. I would also like to argue that, to me, it is the minimalist writing or “beige” prose that comes across more as a film or transcript. This, of course, is not meant to be a generalisation. I am speaking from my experience as a reader. I have read novels that have been absent of action, emotive and descriptive writing altogether. It reads like a transcript because it is simply dialogue. (Dialogue-heavy books aren’t my thing, keep in mind.) But I like the idea of a book being so detailed that I can picture it with ease. They say that books are better than their film counterparts. If it is merely dialogue, I can take the film at face value, and I don’t like that.


I like my writing. Not everyone will, I know that. I also know that I can go over the top, but I do my best to rein it in. That doesn’t mean I will give up purple prose to do that though.


It is difficult finding modern books that I love. I essentially want Romantic/Gothic works, complete with 19th-century language and style. There are only so many novels out there that meet my needs. I hate to be so fussy, but I’m running out of Brontë, Corelli, Le Fanu, Radcliffe, and others. If they weren’t so dead, that would be fine, then I could bug them relentlessly.

I’ve bought a lot of anthologies, such as The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, in the hopes of getting a taste of what I’ve been craving for years. And I do find some, but I want more!

So please, writers out there, I implore you. Give purple prose another chance. I’ll love you for it ❤

ghost stories

Give me beautiful, give me sublime. Give me purple prose!


Know an author I’ll love? Are you one of them? Let me know in the comment section or send me a message. I want to read your works!


James, E.L. Fifty Shades of Grey. London: Arrow Books, 2012. Print.
West, Paul. “In Defense of Purple Prose.” The New York Times. 15 Dec. 1985. Accessed 11 March 2017.
Image credits: NeOld and blogylana

Cruisin’ with the quokkas

Apologies as I meant to give you all my quokka update last week, and I know you have been waiting with bated breath.

Okay, so here goes…

Cadence Dictionary defines the quokka (kwɒkə) as: An effing awesome little creature who has the power to make anyone gush and say, “Er mah gahd! Look at the wittle smiling babies!” Their power is often confused with Satanism. Inhabitants of Rottnest Island are so enthralled by the quokka’s charm, they are incapable of leaving.

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It had been years since I last visited Rottnest Island, and I wasn’t really certain what to expect this time around. On my last visit, I unfortunately didn’t encounter many of the smiley babies. This time…

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I would have had more photos, if my damn camera didn’t die on me.

But these guys can be hard to spot during the day. I cycled right past a number of them and didn’t even realise. As they are nocturnal, they enjoy their sleep during the day, so don’t be upset if you don’t see them right away.

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I actually thought these guys were fake! They were right behind me and I didn’t even notice. They didn’t move at all, and I was convinced they were stuffed! Just as I was getting upset about how cruel it was to have stuffed quokkas sitting there, the one on the right twitched their ear! (The one on the left is showing off the quokka sleeping method).

Hang out for a bit longer as I did, and they’ll come looking for you, begging for food. As more and more people began to leave the island towards the end of the day, the quokkas ventured out on roads for their play time. And it was just when the babies started coming out en masse that my camera died!

As I wandered around the shop area, I discovered what plant the quokkas loved to eat, and once I did… they started swarming me. I haven’t been able to find the name of the plant, all I know is it seems to be some sort of cruel twist of fate that the plant they love the most is the one out of their reach. Quokkas wait until the leaves fall, or until a giddy tourist comes by and starts tearing off leaves to please their quokka overlords.

It was amazing watching them devour their food. I collected a heap of the leaves (which seemed to have some drug-like effect) and gave some out whenever I saw a quokka. There was one particularly fussy quokka though. He/She demanded I feed them the stems only. They didn’t want the leaves, JUST the stems! I was happy to oblige, but they never seemed fully sated, even with my efforts, and I certainly wanted to please! You can’t say no to them, and he/she just kept waiting until I pulled more down. One after the other they were tossed aside, after ONE bite.

I envy those who work on the island, it is such an amazing place, with so many little critter quokkas. I could talk about my adventures cycling throughout the island, but who wants to hear about that when there are quokkas?

All right, I’ll just post a few pictures instead.

Hopefully it won’t be too long until I return to Rottnest Island. It is a wonderful place, and there is still so much to do there that I wasn’t able to during this last trip. If you ever get the chance to go, GO!

www.rottnestisland.com

 

Heading off to Perth

You know how I hate to leave you guys, but my graduation ceremony calls and I must answer. From the 15th until the 23rd I’ll be partying away, celebrating my Honours-ness in Perth, Western Australia. I’ll be heading to Rottnest Island (to see quokkas), South Perth, Margaret River, Bunbury, and to lots of breweries in between!

There will be beer, beer, quokkas, and more beer. I’ll be sure to take plenty of photos, when I remember to, and post them for all of you to see.

If you’ve never seen a quokka before, please go to Google and check them out. Scratch that! Take a look at the photos below.

Quokkas are the most amazing and friendly little creatures I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. And I can’t wait to see them again! Such adorable little bubs. If you ever get the opportunity to head over to Rottnest Island to see these babies, just remember that it is illegal to pet them and feed them anything other than the native plants.

Did they make you smile? Of course they did!

Regarding Eleanor

Things are going well so far. I have been sticking to my plan: spending one day editing, another updating edits, and I have also been working on my pitch for Pitchapalooza. I’ve written and re-written it about 6 or so times, and I’m still not quite happy with it. It’s just a matter of picking one and sticking with it. I don’t think I’ll ever get it perfect (or to my idea of perfection) no matter how many times I write it, or how many hours I spend on it. One thing I have certainly learned from this is that summarising Eleanor down to 250 words is harder than I thought!

Hopefully by the time this post goes out, I’ll have a finished pitch, and who knows, maybe I’ll have emailed it out. We shall see.

Whilst on my trip, I will try and get some work done, but no promises. I know, I know, I’m so sorry, but you know how hard I work. I need a holiday. You know that, right? Will you grant me this holiday?

Next week, I will be publishing part three of my minuscule musings series, So lost.


Thanks for keeping up to date with all things Eleanor!

Got a question about Eleanor? Post it below or send a message through the contact form.

Did you miss last week’s post? Check it out here.


Stay tuned for another update.
Until then…

Check out this little bubbah.

And listen to this awesomely creepy music. Perfect for a horror movie!

 


Want to learn more about my NaNoWriMo project? Check out my Eleanor page

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Check out my writing moods for Eleanor with my Eleanor Spotify playlist

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Eleanor – Editing (and a trip to see the Mormons)

Well, I’m back from my trip to Melbourne! That was damn fun, and The Book of Mormon was hella funny. It was not as I expected. I thought the musical would be more like the South Park episode, All About Mormons. Not that that’s a complaint. The show was damn good, and I highly recommend you go see it! But if you can’t, definitely get a hold of the soundtrack.

Check out some of the tracks below. Turn It Off is pretty damn amazing.

I also visited one of my favourite places, The Cornish Arms, in Brunswick. I tried the vegan chicken burger. It was a-mazing, but I swear they used vegan duck this time around, haha!

Can’t say no to awesomeness like this…

or this…

I also got to visit one of my favourite Thai restaurants, Thai Puka in Albury. They have the best Tom Yum and Panang Curry I’ve ever had!

Anyway…

Now onto Eleanor:

I have been working on editing and formatting. It is going really well, I must say, and has given me more motivation and confidence in the project. I admit that while the goal tracker was helping me put down the words, it wasn’t helping as much as simply editing and proofing. I should have been focusing more on this aspect, because when I was forcing myself to flesh out the story, I was pushing Eleanor to places I didn’t want it to go.

You may remember that I was initially working on Eleanor in parts, and was planning to format it as such. Instead, I have decided to give each part its own chapters. I think this will help you, the reader. I mean, that’s something I prefer as a reader also. It certainly helps when I plan to read only a chapter before bed… or ten… or the entire book. You know how it goes!

I’m really proud of how far this project has come along, in a relatively short time. National Novel Writing Month has been a big part of that, and I owe my thanks to the program. So, thank you!

So… I will continue in this fashion with Eleanor, as it seems to be the most effective for me… at this stage. Of around 280 or so pages, I have managed to edit only 60 odd. So, it’s going slow, as is expected, but I’m getting through it faster than I was with my goal tracker the other week. That’s not to trash the tracker, or anything. It is a very useful tool. I simply think that I’ve gone as far as I can, story wise, with Eleanor. Really, I could create a new tracker, but with editing and formatting in mind, rather than a word count. Perhaps I will consider that.

I still would like to finish before heading off to Perth (on the 15th!!!), but I don’t think that’s realistic at this stage… but we’ll see. We’ll see. I can be an editing machine when I need to. All those years subbing and proofing will come in handy, haha!

I’m working on chapter three at the moment. Eleanor has just been kicked out of the university. I’ve been advised to build up to this a little more, and I think that could work, but considering the character of the lecturer – who kicks Eleanor out – it seems more in his nature to blast Eleanor upon first sight. This probably isn’t making much sense for you guys right now. I’m having trouble knowing what I should or should not reveal at this stage.

The ending is the only problem right now. I’m still unsure what exactly I want. I have some ideas. During the goal tracker weeks, I was getting a little too complicated with the ending. I think it just needs to be simple. Simple is better.

Oh, and Henry. I’m still working on making him more three-dimensional. I have a plan for than. I have a plan!


Thanks for keeping up to date with all things Eleanor!

Got a question about Eleanor? Post it below or send a message through the contact form.

Did you miss last week’s post? Check it out here.


Stay tuned for another update…

Want to learn more about my NaNoWriMo project? Check out my Eleanor page

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Check out my writing moods for Eleanor with my Eleanor Spotify playlist

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Eleanor – Intermission

I have been advised to take a break from work as I get my head together. That means I have stopped working towards my goal with National Novel Writing Month’s goal tracker. I am quite sad about that, but I think it’s for the best right now, as I seem to be steering in the wrong direction with Eleanor. I need to step away, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

During my goal tracker venture,  I had been finding that I was at war with myself over the plot and story of Eleanor. Things were becoming a little too complicated in the story, so I am hoping to pull it all back and get it on track to where I wanted it originally, which may mean Eleanor working better as a novella. This isn’t set in stone. Throughout my drafting processes, I will be fleshing everything out more, BUT the story itself is shorter than I anticipated originally. I don’t want to sacrifice integrity in order to get it to novel length which, I am afraid, I am doing. So, no! No, Cadence, no!

So, I have ended my goal tracker… on 9,212 words. Still, it’s not bad, but now I’ll have to wade through all of that and see what is salvageable.

So far during the intermission, I have been working on editing, and formatting. The formatting work is mainly to get me excited and motivated about the project more, and to get a feel for how the manuscript may be printed – I am still undecided about traditional vs self-publishing. Self-publishing seems to be more suited to this project, but that doesn’t mean I will discount traditional. Have you noticed that I’ve been going round in circles? Haha!

I am also unhappy with my character, Henry. He’s not where I want him to be, so my plan is to work on some short stories, or write from his perspective on each of his scenes with Eleanor. At the moment he’s okay, not brilliant though, so I want to get him as close to brilliant, or perfect, as possible. I have been directed towards some works (and characters) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to get a better idea of where Henry should be. So… more added to my TBR pile, or bookcase(s) rather.

And so we move on to reading. During the intermission, I have been getting stuck into some books – that’s not to say I haven’t been reading at all during my writing. I have, but some books are too difficult to get through, because of spelling/grammatical errors, and I found I was spending my leisure time doing markups (because, you know, I have to do that!), instead of enjoying the book.

I am finally finishing Lili St. Crow’s A Tale of Beauty and Madness series, with Kin. It’s been a really interesting series (Nameless will always be my favourite), and I love the author’s creativity and writing style. I am certain Lili St. Crow (or Lilith Saintcrow) is annoyed by how many times I ask her to write more of this series, haha!


Then I’ll move on to The Witcher series. It’s been a while since I’ve read about Geralt’s adventures.


Thanks for keeping up to date with all things Eleanor!

Got a question about Eleanor? Post it below or send a message through the contact form.

Did you miss last week’s post? Check it out here.


Stay tuned for another update…

(which may or may not include my adventures in Melbourne!)

Want to learn more about my NaNoWriMo project? Check out my Eleanor page

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Check out my writing moods for Eleanor with my Eleanor Spotify playlist

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Eleanor update – Week 2 of goal tracker

Eutemia  I  Regular

It is Day 11 (well, Day 12 by the time this is published).

Goal tracker word count: 7,893
Goal tracker goal: 20,000
Total word count:
 62,621
End goal:
74,728

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I’ve been asked where this awesome tool can be found. Check out the National Novel Writing Month website here http://www.nanowrimo.org and create an account. Good luck!

Somehow I managed to reach my targets for this week. I have no idea how that happened. Between watching Gopher’s complete playthrough of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Alanah (Charalanahzard) Pearce’s complete playthrough of Until Dawn, and this awesome video of a sand spider trying to hide (video below), I had very little time to myself to get these words down. It’s been crazy, I know. I’m just so busy. But I did it! 5,000 odd words isn’t too bad given I’d be struggling to meet that without the tracker. I love this tool, I really do, and I will continue to use it throughout my drafting process with Eleanor.

Although I am not 100% happy with what I’ve written, at least there’s something there for me to work from. Who knows? I might end up deleting the whole 20,000 words I am to write this month, but we’ll see. We’ll see.

So, Eleanor is going all right. As a whole, it’s going really well. I’m happy where it’s heading. The ending is the tricky part though. I have been working on it quite a bit this last week, but I’m still undecided about a few things.

I’m meeting the goals so far, which is great because I will be heading off early February to see The Book of Mormon in Melbourne! I am absolutely tempted to write solely of my Melbourne adventures (a trip to The Cornish Arms is definitely on the plate – see what I did there?). Perhaps I will. It’s not like anyone can stop me, unless they have a court order (the reason why I can’t sing Wuthering Heights in public anymore).

Back to Eleanor. There is so much I want to reveal about what’s been going on, and I am so excited about it all, but I know I shouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for my darling readers.That’s right, by reading this you have entered into a binding contract, which means you must read Eleanor once it is published.

I can reveal…
There has been a murder! Ermahgahd! (Insert Twilight Zone theme here).
But whose murder, what kind of murder, and who is the murderer? Not even I know!
Well, of course I know.

I can reveal…
Eleanor has become a bit of an absinthe addict (her favourite drink being Lemercier), which is perfectly understandable given her recent misfortunes, of which there are many.

I can reveal…
There has been some tension between Eleanor and Henry.

I can reveal…
The name of Eleanor’s horse is Gabrielle.

Thanks for keeping up to date with all things Eleanor!

Got a question about Eleanor? Post it below or send a message through the contact form.

Did you miss last week’s post? Check it out here.


Stay tuned for another update. In the meantime…


Want to learn more about my NaNoWriMo project? Check out my Eleanor page

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Check out my writing moods for Eleanor with my Eleanor Spotify playlist

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Eleanor update – Words, words, words

Last week I started a goal tracker with the National Novel Writing Month website, which is very exciting, at least to me. This NaNoWriMo tool will help me stick to my goal of completing my Eleanor manuscript by the end of February. So, while I completed the 50k goal in November, I did not finish a full draft.

So, what’s the plan exactly?
The plan is to get Eleanor to a novel-length manuscript as I am not keen on publishing it as a novella. I have therefore set myself a reasonable goal of 20k words to reach within a month – only 625 words a day.

As you know, I am heading off to Perth in February for my graduation, so I am hoping to reach the 20k before I leave.

I have quite a few blank spaces to fill in my story; missing scenes, etc. I plan to write them up, and flesh out anything else I need to. Also, since starting Eleanor, I have changed my mind a number of times on what I want to happen in the end! Damn my fickleness! So, obviously, I will need to make an executive decision on what I will do.
If my characters let me!

A visual (for I am not articulate enough to describe a graph of my toilings):

Eutemia  I  Regular

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Goal tracker word count: 2,796
Total word count: 57,524
End goal: 74,728


Stay tuned for another update. In the meantime…

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Want to learn more about my NaNoWriMo project? Check out my Eleanor page

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