Purple? It’s not Purple!

The common response to a subtle suggestion that the writer may have added a little too much purple to their prose seems to elicit that response. It’s shock, I suppose, that someone could see their words as other than deep and meaningful, as a play of beauty in the deep sea of banal.

There, you see, is the problem. We love to ‘hear’ our own voices, and to put a bit of ‘magic’ in there by using words that make the story disappear under the crashing waves of words that don’t move the story forward.

That’s what purple means when referring to prose. Want an example? I’ll even highlight all the bits that I consider unnecessary, and therefore, purplish.

Blood drizzled down her hand, along the blade of the knife, dripped onto the ground. It turned from crimson to black as it seeped into the dark earth. The long shadows of dawn were beginning to fade into full day. Rose looked around at the ground, felt with her feet, listened for the right sound. She found what she was looking for.

“Blood to blood, earth to earth,” Rose whispered, as she stabbed the knife into the sharp sand. She pulled it out to check, stabbed again and again until the blade shone clean in the light of the torch. She slipped the knife into the leather sheath and shoved it down the front of her jeans.

“That’s for Lily,” Rose said aloud. “For what you did to kids like her. May your soul rot in hell for eternity.”

The leaves of the huge ghost gums whispered; branches and twigs rattled and tattled as the high wind above slowly settled. The breeze slid down the deep ravine, through the dry creek bed full of rocks and sticks, to the paddock she stood in. The cool spring squall whisked away the smell of tannin, of copper, of death.

One more down. One more off the list. One step closer to the end. What was his number? Her count should be minus one for the first kill, because that wasn’t really hers. However, she had disposed of the remains; she had taken control of the list; she had killed all but the first; and now the count belonged to her.

Copyright Cage Dunn 2016 – used with permission.

Do you see it? The red is cliche, so if you start your story with cliche, you’ve already turned off most readers. Describing things that don’t do anything for the story are purple. For the first page of a story, there’s a lot of purple in this example. Not as much as some, but it’s definitely too much – it would be too much for a whole scene or chapter.

The green – that’s the good/better bit. Why? Because that’s the hook, that’s what will draw a reader into the story. So why isn’t it closer to the beginning? I suppose it is at least on the first page, but to get the reader to continue, give them that bit of intrigue as close to the start as possible. Within the first two paras should do it. Catch the eye, catch the heart – at the start.

The lesson – if you want to give us a story, give us the story without the things that don’t do anything. If you want to be Tolkien, get a professorship first.

And that’s the Sunday rant for the infusion of sanity to the story-telling role.










Author: 5bayby14u

Where stories live, where they wait for you, where you can find fiction from the group of writers who live in and around, are from . . . storysphere.

12 thoughts on “Purple? It’s not Purple!”

    1. We all agree with this – and we recognise the difference in our styles. We aim for our own voice, but learn from others – but it took so long to even understand what purple was that we thought it worthy of a post. Personally, I like a little bit of purple in the right places, but not in the middle of action; maybe in the introspection moments of character, and from within character POV. But that’s me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah — each writer sooner or later refines his/her own style (hopefully). What the reader wants, however, is often something else entirely. I haven’t figured out how to read the minds of the millions of people who read historical fiction so that I can respond to the complete satisfaction of each and every one of them yet. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know! I can really imagine! I had the scare of my life going to the Historical Novel Society convention a couple of years ago and being there at the moment a lot of the wannabe historical fiction writers suddenly appeared in corsets. A guy sitting next to me at the book signing (former CIA) said, “Most of this stuff is just bodice rippers” and suddenly there were hundreds of bodices begging to be ripped. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Can we pick ourselves up off the floor yet? No, still laughing.
        It’s true, so true – but our group can’t speak; we do weird things like dress up like a particular character just to get the right feel of the clothing; do the fight scenes in the loungeroom (some damage to one light – whoops!), and speak as if the room is crowded with people, which is a bit of a surprise to anyone who comes in and sees only one ‘me’ (in weird gear and some bits of broken glass on the coffee table – no longer asks the questions, though – the look says enough).
        Life as a writer. Life as a multi-person. At least the wannabe’s buy and read books, love to associate with the ‘circle’ of insiders to the genre, and let it be known who/what they affiliate with/to. I think …

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It was just amazing to me to hear the guy say, “…mostly bodice rippers…” and suddenly be surrounded by people in corsets. The costume party was in the same locale and immediately after the book signing. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      5. No such thing as coincidence? Just out to a costume party, and what-ho – there’s a historical novel society, a book signing? Let’s go in and have a look, shall we? Any free wine? Cheese?
        I can imagine the thoughts from both sides of that fence.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Hmmmm…maybe the hotel was hosting a corset convention at the same time. Still, if I read Gone with the Wind right, the corset went UNDER the dress/blouse/bodice… I’m still traumatized.

        Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.