If it hasn't come up in critiques, then it must work for what it's supposed to achieve, so I wouldn't worry so much. Important thing is that the overall story flows well and it doesn't draw attention to itself in a way that pulls the reader out of things.
Edited by Chortleous on Nov 10th 2022 at 5:05:37 AM
I'm inclined to agree with the above: if it isn't proving a problem for your readers, then it may well be that what you're doing works for the piece in question.
In addition, let me note that elaborate prose isn't necessarily "purple". (And whether it is or isn't can in some cases be contextual.) As the page for Purple Prose notes, in order to be "purple", the prose has to be not only florid, but also sacrifice utility in being so.
And finally, let me note further that different people like different styles: what's "purple" to one might be "evocative" to another.
Can you provide one example of symbolist French writing that you're trying to avoid, and a paragraph you've written that you think is too similar to it?
As noted above, the main qualifier for purple prose is sacrificing utility—the symbolism doesn't mean enough to recur as a motif, you never meet the personification again, and the pacing screeches to a halt because the florid description isn't doing anything else while it's there (not kicking the plot forward or implying characterization.)
If you want to exercise more minimalist writing, Stephen King advises to remember that a complete sentence has a noun and a verb. Rocks fall. That was a complete sentence.
Chuck Palahniuk has written essays about the "minimalist" writing style that he learned from his mentors and teachers. I don't entirely agree with the "In six seconds, you'll hate me. But in six months, you'll be a better writer," one because that essay encouraged replacing verb forms of to be or felt or thought with more demonstrative descriptions—and that usually means one word, a dreaded thought-verb, gets replaced by a whole paragraph and I think that's not the best thing for pacing if the vibe you're going for is less Fight Club and more fairy tale. There's a reason for Palahniuk's exercise and suggestion, though—there's applicability depending on the work.
Also the "she breaks your heart" ode to Amy Hempel essay that Palahniuk recommends techniques such as "the burnt tongue" (don't simply say something is there, but rather find a new way to describe it) to avoid descriptions too commonly used before and elsewhere, and "the recording angel" which is how to lead your reader to a conclusion or judgement without outright making a conclusion or judgement in the text. It's basically how-to show, don't tell and the reasons for it in the specific styles and subject matter that Palahniuk cozies into.
I hope these help!
1) Looking back I donâ€™t know what the hell I meant by the Symbolists. I know they were French but why I listed them is a mystery to me (it being 5 in the morning and me being in a funk probably contributed to that). So my bad.
2) While not exactly going for a minimalist style, the examples you gave are honestly very good and helpful. While not having used it myself I was actually passingly familiar with Chuck’s burnt tongue technique and find it quite fascinating. Since my current writing style is quite verbose and heavy on abstraction and personification keeping the Stephen King bit in mind may help me be descriptive yet brief.
3) A good example of what I mean by fearing my prose is purple comes from my opening paragraph in the prologue:
Amidst the fragments of his old life, (main character) lied weakly in the center of a crimson crater dotting a blurry expanse of white. Warm rivers of blood like the talons of dogs tore apart the pristine snow. Where once nomad men and women laughed and sang stood only corpses, their dead blue lips frozen in silent screams. Their tents and huts waited patiently for tenants that would never return. Blood pooled in the corners of (main character)’s lips. He shuddered as the wet tang of iron invaded his mouth and stained his teeth a deep red. (main character) mustered the strength to look to his side.
Translation: The main character’s nomadic tundra tribe got wiped out and he’s now lying bloodied and near death.
I like quite a few of the metaphors and similes I used personally but I fear these may come across as pretentious and distracting to my reader. Hopefully that makes my situation clearer.
If I may:
This sentence, while not overly florid, I do find a little confusing. But the issues are mostly structural, I think, rather than of, uh, "prose colour".
(And by the way, I believe that it should be "lay weakly", not "lied weakly". Unless the character was speaking untruths, of course.)
This I actually find to be a rather good description: it's evocative of the horror being presented, I feel.
(Although from your terser version I'm now confused as to whether the dead are standing up or not; the text quoted above suggests that they are.)
I'll confess that I'm in two minds about the line regarding "dogs", but overall I don't think that the prose is overly "purple".
Edited by ArsThaumaturgis on Nov 11th 2022 at 10:01:26 PM
Thanks for the feedback. Pointing out the structural issues in the first sentence made me go back and see that quite a few of my other sentences were rather clunky to read. I’m also happy that the prose isn’t too intrusive, and going back to fix some of those structure issues even left me with better descriptive terms as I went to tweak the brevity and readability. So thanks for that. 😅
Excellent! I'm glad to have helped! ^_^
I’ve recently finally started on my first major writing project and while in the process of working on my prologue realized that I may have fallen victim to purple prose!
I made heavy use of descriptive adjectives and personification to try and create a bleak, surreal vibe in a way that was similar to “high” prose. Think of something like the Symbolist writers from France, though maybe not as extreme. However, upon seeing some of the examples given of Purple Prose here I realized I may be steering dangerously close to this territory.
I’ve had feedback given to me on my work so far by a few people (one of whom is an avid reader) and it has been highly positive as of yet with detailed positive critique about what they liked, but I still can’t shake the paranoia that my attempts at setting up a mood and tone will come across as pretentious. How do I know if my high prose has become the dreaded Purple Prose?