Purple is my favourite colour.
And with the passing of the fabulous Prince (rest in peace), it is popping up all over media currently. It will always resonate with me, in all its shades from palest lilac to deepest imperial. As a writer though, I am told to avoid and remove all purple from my work, if it comes in the form of purple prose.
Purple prose is hard to define and somewhat objective, but it is essentially language that is excessively ornate and overdone. It is verbose, redundant and melodramatic. And usually it is at odds with the writer’s true voice. Arthur Quiller-Couch coined the phrase ‘murder your darlings’ and I try to obey.
But what happens to the vivid image, the phrase that sings through my heart and whispers in my ear when I try to sleep? I don’t murder it, no.
I simply transplant it to a more conducive spot, where it can grow and find full expression.
Much as I would do in my garden, where there are no weeds, just plants out of place. (Sometimes that place is the compost heap, but I digress.)
I take my eye-catching words and make them into poetry.
In poetry the vivid image is encouraged and welcomed. I may not be much of a poet, but writing it exercises different writing muscles. It encourages economy as well as expansive imagery, squeezing a quart of meaning into a pint pot of syllables and stanzas.
John Vorhaus put it well in his recent post Easy no help you where he talked about challenging yourself to do difficult things, in order to grow as a writer.
I agree wholeheartedly, though like any form of exercise, each to their own. I can’t imagine writing detective stories or historical romance for practice. Not my thing at all. But prompts and random words and genre-mashing? Bring it on.
Poetry is difficult to do well but I enjoy the attempt, so that’s where I push and test my writing skills. I can take my newfound discipline of economy with words back to my novels and short stories. The aim is sharper, leaner description without getting too flowery.