Sunday, 20 May 2012

Purple to beige and back again

The primordial something I observed was his exquisite, glimmering perse orbs, shrouded in a pantheon of gracefully curling lashes which glistened chestnut in the dazzling May glare under cautiously sweeping...

No! This is not good writing. Here's a translation:

He had blue eyes.

Hang on, this isn't right either...

Welcome to purple and beige prose, the reasons why writing is harder than it seems.  Your first instinct is probably to write something, checking a thesaurus every other word (or even
 word, "it" included...) to find something else which is more interesting that everyone will remember in your amazing breakout hit. Please don't.

Let's take The Hunger Games. It's quite popular right now, it's sold a lot of copies and has it's own film. Susanne Collins has it pretty much made right? Okay, Mr I-can-write-something-overly-pretentious-that-everyone-will-love-forever-or-else, where is the purple prose? Is that the wonderful noise of silence I hear? Excellent!

So she could have called her books The Starvation Diversion, but she didn't, partly because it sounds completely stupid and partly because it wouldn't sell. The title is one of the first things your potential agent/publishing house/reader sees, so you need to make it somewhat catchy. The Starvation Diversion would never be catchy.

Even *goes green* that thing Twilight, which is hilariously overladen with both purple and beige prose manages to find a normal title (four of them actually) and avoids being called My Deranged, Fanatical Rant on the Weather (which it is, well not mine, but you get the point).

Purple prose ("gazing at the elegant lacework of knots in the magnificently designed table beside me which twisted and coiled...") is pretentious, annoying to read and will not sell books (unless you're Twilight, but that's another post) while beige prose ("the weather was nice") is boring, overly simplistic and will not sell books (unless you're Twilight).

Conversely, the balance isn't hard, but if you're already enamored of either purple or beige prose I'd say "poor you". The habit's going to take a while to break (though hey, you could go write for Mills and Boon!)

Anyway, I'm going to go now before I start a rant on the evils of using the word "orbs" as a synonym for "eyes"

See ya next time,


1 comment:

  1. I think most good authors had something in common: they told the story. If you focus on getting the story out instead of on the shade of the prose, it becomes a lot easier to write it. Focus on the prose on the second draft! :)