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Purple Prose

Purple prose consists of passages so cloying, over the top, or dramatic that they create speed bumps for the reader. It employs an abundance of adjectives and dense descriptive detail. 

Purple prose should be weeded out when found, unless that is your preferred writing style. In which case, you may deter some readers and agents. 

The worst offenders are romantic scenes, because writers try to avoid clinical terms for the acts of love and body parts. A lot of slang words are too crude and don't fit the mood of the piece. 

Purple prose can be a product of weak description writing. Some writers stuff so many descriptions in a paragraph the reader forgets the topic.

1) Avoid using annoying phrases:

  • bated breath (not baited!)
  • cupid lips,
  • framed by
  • heart-shaped face
  • limped pools
  • manly chin
  • revealed
  • set off by
  • steely eyes
  • heaving or swelling bosom,
  • tumescent member
  • twirling lock of hair
  • wriggling eyebrows

2) Avoid melodramatic descriptions:

Her ample bosom heaved as he slowly untied her frilled, satin night dress. His caress made her tremble like a delicate blossom in the breeze as he nibbled on the petals of her ears.

3) Avoid descriptions that go on ... and on ... and on. 

She stood there, like a pale lilly, swaying in the wind, her corn silk hair floating around her heart-shaped face like golden cloud, obscuring her sky-blue eyes. The flyaway strands parted as her rosebud lips pursed and blew them aside. Her gauzy white gown clung to her voluptuous curves. She was the absolute embodiment of a seductive angel.

An effective cumulative sentence (base clause plus two or three descriptive phrases) is a master craft. Stuffing as many fluffy descriptions as you can think of into a sentence is not masterful.


?  Have you used melodrama intentionally, such as in dialogue or poking fun of a situation?
? Can you tone it down?
? Have you committed purple prose abuse?
? Does the language fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?

For all of the revision tips on purple prose and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

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