What is Purple Prose?

I want to thank the people that contacted me for a read of my first chapters. The post is here and if you would like to read it, you can stillContact me.

Now, back into the swing of things. I missed out on my regular Tuesday Discussion post but here it is a few days late; better late than never.

From those who are new, each week I post a topic (relevant to my WIP) and try to unravel the mysteries and perspectives of it. This week is:

Purple Prose.

What is Purple Prose?

Purple prose is writing that is unnecessarily wordy, filled with clichés or overworked figurative language that is inappropriate for context or genre. When writing becomes excessively flowery or melodramatic it loses meaning. Purple is great as a color but not great for writing.

Often we fall into these bouts of purple when we’re lost on how to move forward, or when we’re forcing something to work.
Good writing doesn’t mean simple and unadorned, but it does require mindfulness.

So, how do we watch out for purple prose in our own writing?

To avoid purple prose, I ask myself these questions:

Am I in control?

Does my language achieve what I want it to? Remember to give your readers some credit. They’re not rookies to this reading game and can figure out inferences and emphasis without you filling in those details. Allow the reader’s imagination to take on some of the work.

Are my words appropriate to my context?

Avoid words that are overly complicated for a scene, context, or genre. Don’t try to show off or put on airs as a writer, especially when such acts of self-aggrandizement diminish credibility in the eyes of your readers.

Too much? Too Little? Or Just Right?

Descriptors and figurative language all have a purpose in writing, but it’s important to consider whether not excessive description has caused sensory overload. Again, give your readers some credit and let their imaginations do some of the heavy lifting.


As a writer: How do you avoid purple prose when editing?

As a reader: Do you lose trust in the author when purple prose is evident?

Post your comments and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view and answer, please invite them or share this post to them.

#DWTSmith #purpleprose

Purple Prose

To avoid purple prose, choose your words wisely and well.

15 thoughts on “What is Purple Prose?

  1. As a writer, my first drafts are usually sparse on detail, so when editing I try to only add what I need.

    As for melodrama or over-explaining, which I’m often guilty of in first drafts, I can usually spot that by looking for the longer paragraphs . I often explain in big paragraphs world-building background I need to know as the writer, but that I don’t need to data-dump on the reader. Usually, I can cut those paragraphs wholecloth out of the manuscript and occasionally feed back just little bits of detail throughout the narrative.

    As a reader, I’m pretty forgiving. I read mostly indie stuff because the trad stuff is generally really formulaic and bland in my favorite genre. Because of this, I’ve been exposed to a lot of raw writing that still contains a great story. Sure, a lot of it could go through more rounds of editing, but if the author has created a good story with likable, dimensional characters, I won’t lose trust over a rookie mistake like purple prose. I might roll my eyes a little or skim, but I don’t assume they are bad writers because they left it in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think first drafts tend to be limited with the narrative and the description.

      I have seen the same with new indie authors; excellent ideas but they could go through more rounds of edits.

      Thank you for the input this week 😃

      Liked by 1 person

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