Purple prose

We are now looking at feelings and sensations.

If you analyse your favourite novels, stories and poems, you might discover that the writers mention what is experienced through the senses:

visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory, tactile.

In plain English that’s:

sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch.

This is a way of capturing a reader’s attention. Most of us relate and respond to what we see,
hear, smell, taste and touch. We carry our own mental pictures based on past experiences. Always present in our memory, they contribute to our imagination. However, the same warning applies as in the previous section: Be careful when you choose words and phrases. It is easy to make your written expression too colourful. This is called “purple prose”.

Be warned: Teenagers are very good at writing purple prose. Here is an example of very purple prose. It was not written by a teenager — I produced it myself as an example of bad writing:

Hermione gazed pensively across the moor, her bosom hanging low, like the menacing storm clouds above, while her tears mingled moistly with the miasmic mountain mist. The sound of distant thunder brought to her mind memories of the past, of a time when the world was young and she was blissfully carefree. She shrugged her shabbily shawled shoulders, and allowed a weary smile to loosen her lips as Sir Reginald apprehensively approached.

Isn’t that terrible? Analyse the way it is written. Find out why it is so bad. You could discover that there are:

— too many adjectives and adverbs
— too much awful alliteration
— ridiculous similes
— several clichés.

Now have a go at writing your own passage in horribly purple prose. Keep it short. You’ll learn quite a lot by deliberately overloading your text, and being able to laugh at your own efforts. This will also help you to avoid doing the same thing when you are writing seriously.

To the last page in Creative Writing: Listen to the silence

Go to Two mystery photos Challenge your imaginative power!

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