Monday, July 6, 2009

A Taste of Purple Prose

By Cindy Beck

Now that you've read the title of this blog entry—

What? You didn't read the title? Well, I'll give you a minute ... go take a look again.

Okay, now that everyone's read it, I'll bet some of you are asking yourself, "What in the world is purple prose?"

According to Wikipedia, purple prose is ... a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response.

To put it a little more succinctly, it's prose that's overwritten and uses a lot of adjectives, adverbs, similes, metaphors, and run-on thoughts. Not enjoyable to read in a novel, but most certainly fun to read in a contest.

Recently, QueryTracker held a purple prose contest, and if you go here, you can read interesting facts, as well as examples of it.

When the contest winners were announced, I was excited to hear the winner was one of Cedar Fort's own authors, Rachelle Christensen. (Rachelle's book, Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage will come out in 2010.)

For your enjoyment, here's Rachelle's entry:

When he heard about the empurpled contest on Query Tracker, the coils of dark, multitudinous hair which made up his eyebrows knit together in fury, like a spry grandmother’s knitting needles, clicking incessantly and rapidly, the sun’s rays illuminating them with a silver gleam, like the gleam of a young child’s brand new bicycle bedecked in all its glory with lemon-colored streamers and chiffon paint with stripes of lavender that shimmered like the violet hue of his eyes which were now thoughtful; the wrinkles around his wide, pupil-inhabited orbs seemed pensive as he considered how he might win Query Tracker’s contest and emerge a champion like a magnificent Olympic sports-star—but not like Greg Luganis because he hit his head—instead his own powerful kind of win—the kind to fill a man’s soul with joy to overflowing like a large bowl of Rocky Road ice cream with ostentatious helpings of steaming hot fudge, but not butterscotch because it would contrast with the rich hues of the chocolate which was so sweet as would be his joy when he won—like a bareback rider in the National Rodeo Finals hanging on for dear life to a fraying strap of yellowed rope—he imagined this with fervor, gripping the gleaming pen in his hand as he began to write.

You just have to laugh at such a long sentence that basically says ... well ... nothing. But, of course, that was the point in the contest. It's not, however, something we want to recreate in our writing.

If you'd like to read a few of the other QueryTracker entries—so that you know what not to do in your upcoming, best-selling novel—click here.

(Thanks to Rachelle Christensen for allowing me to post her winning entry.)



Rebecca Talley said...

Wow. That's quite the . . . purple prose.

Anne Bradshaw said...

Hilarious! I love a splash of purple prose now and again. It brightens up a day of tight writing where every word counts.

Congratulations, Rachelle - and thanks Cindy for sharing the news.

Cindy Beck said...

Rebecca and Anne: Thanks so much for commenting. Glad you enjoyed it. I love purple prose when I do it on purpose. It's those ones that show up and I didn't intend for it to happen that drive me nuts. :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

That is absolutely fabulous!! Thanks for making me laugh out loud. I read it to my husband and he laughed too - great job, Rachelle!

Cindy Beck said...

Tristi: Thanks for stopping and commenting. I'm with you ... I laugh every time I read what Rachelle wrote!