Friday, August 26, 2011

Purple Prose: Love it or Hate it?

At Dictionary.com Purple Prose is defined as:purple prosenoun 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.

My reaction to that dictionary entry is: Aww shut up.
Particularly in romance writing are purple prose effective but the writer has to know how to use it sparingly but effectively. I once wrote this line:
She loved him with every beat of her heart. (As purple as purple gets)
If I started a story that way I’d be shot at by frequent readers or they’d hurl stones. Either way it would not be pleasant. But if I stuck that line in after the black moment and when it looked like all was lost for the hero and heroine I’d get a pass because at that point the reader would know that the heroine wasn’t exaggerating but that she indeed felt that way.
Yes, the writer is playing with the reader’s emotions and sympathies but that is the whole point. Writers want to take you on a journey with the characters and sometimes the correct use of purple prose only adds to the experience.
Song writers do it all the time but most people miss it in the catchy music. For instance:
“When you kissed me heaven sighed.” A line from Edith Pilaf’s La Vie en Rose.
“The scars of your love remind you of us.” Adele’s Rolling in the Deep
I could go on…
So what do you all think of the use of purple prose?

3 comments:

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Like you said, as long as its placed right I like purple prose that isn't TOO overdone. I'm also a sucker for romance so it makes me very tolerant of all the purpleness. :)

Lisa Lane said...

I think the term is far overused, typically when a reader or reviewer feels the writer has become too flowery or sentimental, but I've seen it used to describe well crafted sentences that just happen to include a word or two that sounds a little too smart or literary.

While it's easy to lose control over a good sentence, one's evaluation of another person's craft is always going to be subjective to a given degree. This is not to say that there does not exist good and bad prose, but simply that we're all going to view it differently.

If used properly sparingly, even purple prose has its place IMHO.

Isabel Roman said...

Exactly! Sometimes the occassion calls for it and it really does depend on the reader's mood. Well it does for me anyway! Some days it's agreat sentence, others, entirely too sappy.

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