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View Full Version : Hi my name is __ and I'm addicted to flowery prose


wrombola
06-03-2010, 08:02 AM
Any other addicts out there that can suggest a good support group to help me out?

I was reading some Zelda Fitzgerald the other day and her writing is so flowery and just barely tethered to reality. I know it's wrong, especially when not taken in moderation, but it feels so right.

It's even worse when I'm editing the stuff out of my novel. I know it's inappropriate and distracting yet removing it is like pulling teeth.

Libbie
06-03-2010, 08:08 AM
If it feels so right, GO WITH IT. I love the Fitzgeralds, Nabokov, and other "flowery" writers. Done right, it packs immense style. If you can pull it off, you should.

The problem is that few can pull it off without becoming ridiculous. So you just need some good crits from people who understand and appreciate embellished prose.

jennontheisland
06-03-2010, 08:19 AM
Prose is the only place I'm fond of purple.

Use Her Name
06-03-2010, 08:27 AM
I don't consider F. Scott "flowery." I think writing has been turned into such a austere, utilitarian thing that modern readers no longer have the ability to distinguish artistic elements in language from mere informational writing. I was just reading Gatsby last week, thinking, "wow, finally, I am reading someone who can really write." Writers like Anne Rice go too far in a way with a kind of ersatz historical writing that does not fit in the era-- that is what I consider "flowery" writing.

Cyia
06-03-2010, 09:50 AM
I was reading some Zelda Fitzgerald the other day and her writing is so flowery and just barely tethered to reality.

Yeah, that's um... not the prose...

Miss Plum
06-03-2010, 10:22 AM
Samuel Johnson:

"Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."

Also Virginia Woolf (can't find the quote), who said that she'd go over her writing and make sure to take out the parts that she liked.

Stunted
06-03-2010, 10:33 AM
I wish my prose were more flowery. Half the time, it seems like it's made out of bones.

gothicangel
06-03-2010, 11:55 AM
Any other addicts out there that can suggest a good support group to help me out?

I was reading some Zelda Fitzgerald the other day and her writing is so flowery and just barely tethered to reality. I know it's wrong, especially when not taken in moderation, but it feels so right.

It's even worse when I'm editing the stuff out of my novel. I know it's inappropriate and distracting yet removing it is like pulling teeth.

I know a cure for that: Ernest Hemingway.

Cured me anyway. That was two years ago, I'm editing again now and find myself editing out a lot of unnecessary words and general control freakery. :D

hillaryjacques
06-03-2010, 12:35 PM
I treat flowery writing like a diet: cut the majority of it because it's not necessary, but do indulge every now and again or you'll freaking lose your mind. I've yet to go on a purple prose-writing binge, but the night is young.

Cliff Face
06-03-2010, 12:51 PM
If I were to write flowery prose it'd take me 10 years to write one book. I really have to stop and think to get a decent bit of purple... it'd drive me nuts.

Greeble
06-03-2010, 01:29 PM
I tend to write in a bare-boned and straightforward fashion, to the point where I'm frustrated by my inability to perform any linguistic artistry. Story is all I have to make a difference.

Lady Ice
06-03-2010, 04:26 PM
There's a difference between writing prose that plays around with language and writing 'flowery' prose. It's okay to want to write dazzling prose- but you have to recognise the line between 'lyrical and dazzling' and 'pretentious and convoluted'.

KTC
06-03-2010, 04:28 PM
Yeah, that's um... not the prose...

scandalous! (-:

rosiroo
06-03-2010, 04:40 PM
Heh, I have this exact same problem!

shaldna
06-03-2010, 05:14 PM
argh! Thar be purple on that there horizon!

personally i hate it. but each to their own. if you like it then that's all that matters

sohalt
06-03-2010, 05:57 PM
Another writer who does flowery prose really well is Angela Carter. (Or Oscar Wilde. He's a master of the pithy repartee, but his descriptions can be almost oppressively ornate. But even the oppressiveness is intentional).

I think "flowery" prose is riskier than sparse prose, because it gives you a lot more opportunities to embarrass yourself and makes you vulnerable to accusations of pretentiousness. That's exactly why I like it a lot, occasionally. What would be art without risks? No risk, no fun, etc.

(Although I have to admit, that afterwards I have to read the Economist just to cleanse the palate.)

Personally, I usually go for prosaic rather than lyrical. I don't mind weeding out the flourishes. My last short story went from 3000 words to 2000 words. I can be a pretty ruthless editor. But I always save the first draft for my own pleasure. This way, editing is easier, because I know the words are not lost.

Another thing I've noticed is that my German is more flowery than my English. I guess, in my case it's a matter of confidence. It's not surprising that I feel free to take more risks in my native language. (Although I sometimes feel that English lends itself better to a more minimalst approach, because English, even when sparse, somehow seems to be smoother than German. If I transferred my English style to my German writing it would sound harsh, I think.)

Phaeal
06-03-2010, 07:01 PM
Gertrude Jekyll writes my favorite flowery prose.

C.M.C.
06-03-2010, 08:01 PM
There is nothing wrong with flowery prose, or even purple prose. Like impressionism, cubism, and all the rest of the other schools of art, they're merely different ways of reaching the same end.

job
06-03-2010, 10:29 PM
Some intricate and embellished prose is good. Some isn't.

Spare prose, the same goes.

You might post something over at Share Your Work and see what folks say that is specific to your writing. If you do this, drop back and say so and I'll try to get over there and comment.

wrombola
06-03-2010, 10:37 PM
I just posted the first two chapters of my novel in the fantasy folder

Ken
06-04-2010, 12:17 AM
... "flowery prose." Used to be a bit afflicted with that myself. Cure for me was reading lots of kids books, like "Hatchet," which contain great examples of lean prose that make works by Hemingway seem verbose. Suits me, but may not, you. So before you go about fixin' your prose make sure it's truly in need of such as others here have pointed out.

Dang 'em for beating me to the punch. :Soapbox:

CaroGirl
06-04-2010, 12:30 AM
I'm more, sort of, poetic than flowery. I love me my metaphors, I tells ya.

ishtar'sgate
06-04-2010, 01:34 AM
Yes, I have that tendency. Agents and editors call it 'poetic' - probably just a polite way of saying 'purple'.:)

EagerReader
06-04-2010, 02:16 AM
As a reader, I love both. Depends on the mood I'm in. Just think if we didn't have the choice. I appreciate that everyone has their own style and merit. It gives me a lot more to feast on.

As a fledgling writer, I like to dabble in both. Words and their omission can be equally poetic. It's fun to explore different avenues, who knows where each road will take me?

chocowrites
06-04-2010, 02:25 AM
I love lyrical/poetic prose. Does flowery/purple = lyrical/poetic? For me, flowery equates to overdone, hard to get through prose, while lyrical equates to skillful, beautiful prose.

In any case, The Great Gatsby is one of my all time faves.

I love reading beautiful prose and I don't think I can bring myself to write barebone prose. Metaphors and similes and adjectives are addicting.

Rubicon
06-04-2010, 02:28 AM
Also Virginia Woolf (can't find the quote), who said that she'd go over her writing and make sure to take out the parts that she liked.I think this is great advice to combat purple prose.

Alitriona
06-04-2010, 02:29 AM
http://i726.photobucket.com/albums/ww261/alitriona/PPM.jpg

He got away a few weeks ago and I gathered a search party. Luckily after a few days he was returned.

I am flowery and proud. :)

jannawrites
06-04-2010, 02:32 AM
Hi, my name is Janna... and I'm addicted to flowery prose.

So far, though, I don't mind. :D

Cassiopeia
06-04-2010, 02:37 AM
Samuel Johnson:

"Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."

Also Virginia Woolf (can't find the quote), who said that she'd go over her writing and make sure to take out the parts that she liked.As wonderful as these two people are, I disagree. If I don't like my writing, I'm quite sure no one else will either.

I know a cure for that: Ernest Hemingway.

:DI happen to like Hemingway. He just happens to come from a different generation and I think that everyone should at least read one of his books, along with Steinbeck, Faulkner, Bronte, Austin, Dumas and I could go on, believe me.

I'm grateful my mother let me read and read and read. It's made me a better writer and if my prose happens to march a long a bit prettily, well I'm the better for it.

DamaNegra
06-04-2010, 02:42 AM
As wonderful as these two people are, I disagree. If I don't like my writing, I'm quite sure no one else will either.

Well, I'm sure they're not really meant to be taken literally. We're usually blind to the flaws in things that we like (for example, your novels, your children, etc.). So if you really, really like something, you're probably not objective enough to see if there are any flaws in it or there's something that could be better. Sometimes, it happens that people like things that are utterly dreadful, but their liking stops them from realizing it.

So yeah, maybe not delete the things you like, but at least give them a long, hard look. Chances are, they're not as pretty as you see them.

(disclaimer: every you in this post is generic and not meant to be applied to anyone in particular. I hate this about the English language)

jannawrites
06-04-2010, 02:45 AM
As wonderful as these two people are, I disagree. If I don't like my writing, I'm quite sure no one else will either.

<snip>

Ditto. I think a reader can sense when a writer's been untrue to themself.

Kitty27
06-04-2010, 02:54 AM
Hi,my name is Kitty and I am a purple prose addict.

I've tried to quit. Really. I've studied the great writers who write bare bones prose. I have tried to control myself.

I failed. I cannot help it!

It's so pretty!

wrombola
06-04-2010, 02:56 AM
It is very possible to write the perfect line and have it be completely inappropriate in the context of everything else you have written. That is when I know it needs to go. It's still hard. One day at a time.

Cassiopeia
06-04-2010, 03:04 AM
Well, I'm sure they're not really meant to be taken literally. We're usually blind to the flaws in things that we like (for example, your novels, your children, etc.). So if you really, really like something, you're probably not objective enough to see if there are any flaws in it or there's something that could be better. Sometimes, it happens that people like things that are utterly dreadful, but their liking stops them from realizing it.

So yeah, maybe not delete the things you like, but at least give them a long, hard look. Chances are, they're not as pretty as you see them.

(disclaimer: every you in this post is generic and not meant to be applied to anyone in particular. I hate this about the English language)I don't know that I met more than a minority that is blind to their own flaws. I'm painfully aware of my shortcomings. So when I find that a passage is really working, 9 times out of 10, the feedback is supportive of that.

Kim, whose children are freaking awesome but her writing, meh, could be better. :D

Jamesaritchie
06-04-2010, 03:12 AM
I don't know that I met more than a minority that is blind to their own flaws. I'm painfully aware of my shortcomings. So when I find that a passage is really working, 9 times out of 10, the feedback is supportive of that.

Kim, who's children are freaking awesome but her writing, meh, could be better. :D


If writers weren't blind to their own flaws, slush piles wouldn't be filled with bad writing, bad storytelling, and bad characterization. I suspect pretty much every writer who submits a story believes it's good enough to be published.

Some writers probably do see some of their flaws, but it's what the writer thinks is good that isn't that causes the problems.

Feedback is nice, but if it really worked for the average writer, slush piles would largely disappear.

gothicangel
06-04-2010, 11:27 AM
I happen to like Hemingway. He just happens to come from a different generation and I think that everyone should at least read one of his books, along with Steinbeck, Faulkner, Bronte, Austin, Dumas and I could go on, believe me.

I loved reading Hemingway, he also taught me that you don't need five words when one will do. The one word has much more impact, I feel the more you embellish the word, the more a writer dilutes the power of what we are trying to say.

I also love Angela Carter, but she's writing in a gothic syntax. Probably the only place 'overblown, purple prose' (Carter's own words) works.

roostercharmer
06-04-2010, 12:04 PM
I'm also a flowery prose addict. I like reading it and I like writing it. I tend to use it more when I'm describing scenery or emotion but I know it's overkill sometimes. I need to read more Hemingway. Gotta kill those puppies.

But I think genre makes a big difference. There's some genres (like romance and some types of fantasy) where people expect it to be flowery and even get critical when it ISN'T. But that's still no excuse to get carried away.

Kosh
06-05-2010, 05:12 PM
I like poetic prose, but not "overwritten" prose. A good variety in sentences goes a long way. I'm a fan of the out-of-nowhere one sentence paragraph (or even one sentence Scene ala Dark Tower series).

Glenakin
06-06-2010, 02:32 AM
What happened to just writing and trying your best to convey whatever information to the reader in the most understandable way? The problem with using too many big words is when your readers have to run to the dictionary every 3 lines it screws with the flow of your book. Wouldn't want that, would you?

Greeble
06-06-2010, 02:39 AM
The problem with using too many big words is when your readers have to run to the dictionary every 3 lines it screws with the flow of your book.

Books need flow? Who would've thought.

scarletpeaches
06-06-2010, 02:43 AM
I don't consider F. Scott "flowery." I think writing has been turned into such a austere, utilitarian thing that modern readers no longer have the ability to distinguish artistic elements in language from mere informational writing. I was just reading Gatsby last week, thinking, "wow, finally, I am reading someone who can really write." Writers like Anne Rice go too far in a way with a kind of ersatz historical writing that does not fit in the era-- that is what I consider "flowery" writing.Uh...or maybe not.

Glenakin
06-06-2010, 02:44 AM
Books need flow? Who would've thought.
Are you being sarcastic, mate?

scarletpeaches
06-06-2010, 02:45 AM
As long as none of you are Barbara Taylor Bradford you should be okay.

alex sultan
06-06-2010, 02:59 AM
My prose is most certainly poetic, but since its poetic quality is more haiku than anything else, I rather doubt it could be considered "flowery". :)

muriel.lede
06-06-2010, 07:17 AM
"Flowery" is good; it is "florid" that is bad. Purple prose only encompasses the latter. I *love* flowery prose and encourage it.

Albannach
06-06-2010, 08:38 AM
Well, I'm sure they're not really meant to be taken literally. We're usually blind to the flaws in things that we like (for example, your novels, your children, etc.). So if you really, really like something, you're probably not objective enough to see if there are any flaws in it or there's something that could be better. Sometimes, it happens that people like things that are utterly dreadful, but their liking stops them from realizing it.

So yeah, maybe not delete the things you like, but at least give them a long, hard look. Chances are, they're not as pretty as you see them.

(disclaimer: every you in this post is generic and not meant to be applied to anyone in particular. I hate this about the English language)

There is nothing wrong with the English language. One should not be afraid to use the word 'one', in my opinion. :)

maestrowork
06-06-2010, 11:28 AM
There is nothing wrong with lush, rich, ornate prose. Unless it's bad writing -- bad writing is always wrong.

It's a matter of style and taste, really, but something truly is bad no matter if you like barebone or flowery writing. You may like a simple grilled streak or hamburger, or you may like gourmet cooking... good food is good no matter what, and bad is bad for similar reasons.

One thing of caution: make sure you're writing with your heart and soul and do what is RIGHT for your story and your personal taste, and not because you feel that it is more "writerly" or you're trying to mimic another writer. I see so many writers write flowery prose not because they're good at it or even enjoy it, but because they feel that it makes them literary and writerly. More often than not, it just makes their writing bad (and yes, I've been there).

blacbird
06-06-2010, 11:37 AM
There is nothing wrong with lush, rich, ornate prose.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
William Faulkner
Vladimir Nabokov
William Styron

Alas, most of us are not in their league, and are better off emulating the great writers who produce straightforward efficient narrative:

John D. MacDonald
Elmore Leonard
James M. Cain
John Steinbeck

caw