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Thread: What do you consider beautiful prose?

  1. #1
    Still at it! Odile_Blud's Avatar
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    Smile What do you consider beautiful prose?

    This is just a question out of curiosity. There are different styles and different way of writing, none are objectively better than the other. It's all a matter of taste, and I'm just curious of what your opinion may be. What do you consider beautiful prose?
    Last edited by Odile_Blud; 07-15-2017 at 11:03 PM.
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  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Chekhov

    Paint me your picture of what's happening, so I don't have to do it myself. Show me their faces and let me feel their pains and joys to the point I want to cry or laugh or both. Slip their skin over my hands and let me experience their life as though it were my own. Do that, and no matter how ugly things might be in the world you've created, the writing is beautiful.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW LeftyLucy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
    Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Chekhov

    Paint me your picture of what's happening, so I don't have to do it myself. Show me their faces and let me feel their pains and joys to the point I want to cry or laugh or both. Slip their skin over my hands and let me experience their life as though it were my own. Do that, and no matter how ugly things might be in the world you've created, the writing is beautiful.
    I agree with this and would add to it that I want to hear the music. The beat and rhythm and flow that carry me from one image to the next take beautiful still images and turn them into beautiful writing for me.

    There's also a place in here for the unexpected - the metaphor I haven't thought of before, the way of looking at something ordinary that makes it entirely new. That alone isn't enough to make bland writing beautiful, but I think it is (for me) what makes the difference between forgettable beauty and memorable beauty.

  4. #4
    figuring it all out
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    There's an amazing (and amazingly written) book on this called the elements of eloquence. I'm sure there's many others as good or better, but this one is highly entertaining (funny even) and so would highly recommend reading it if you are interesting prose.

    For me, beautiful prose is an author being able distil some image, idea or feeling into a single simple sentence. No flowery words or convoluted descriptions. Just truth.

  5. #5
    MacAllister's Official Minion & Greeter AW Moderator Ari Meermans's Avatar
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    I second weekendwarrior's recommendation for The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth. It's the perfect secret weapon for any writer who wants to write with real style.

    And should you ever wonder why I would wince when I read that someone "went trolling through the internet", you might want to also grab Mark Forsyth's The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language. But that informative, hilarious, and often ribald tome is for later; do yourself a favor and grab The Elements of Eloquence first. just sayin'.
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  6. #6
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    If you want to write beautiful prose, read a lot of it.

    And I'd suggest starting with prose from the Elizabethan era, and reading forward.

    I'd also suggest reading (and perhaps even more importantly) listening to a lot of poetry.

    Prose has cadence, melody and meter just as much as poetry does.

  7. #7
    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

    If you read beautiful prose out loud, you won't (usually) trip over your tongue (unless that's the point).

    An elegant, unexpected metaphor or turn of phrase helps too.

    Blessings,

    Siri Kirpal
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  8. #8
    I like full stops. nrwriter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
    Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Chekhov
    The reason I put down nine books out of ten is because too many writers follow this advice not knowing what they're doing.

    What is beautiful for me, prose or whatever, may be ugly to someone else. For example, I couldn't put down The Fight Club or The Road while plenty of people can't stand this kind of prose like I can't stand fantasy or anything in the YA genre. What works for me is the flow from one sentence to the next without breaks or pauses. I find beauty in this kind of prose.

  9. #9
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nrwriter View Post
    The reason I put down nine books out of ten is because too many writers follow this advice not knowing what they're doing.
    Maybe they do know what they're doing, but what they're doing just doesn't hit the spot for you?

    Quote Originally Posted by nrwriter View Post
    What is beautiful for me, prose or whatever, may be ugly to someone else.
    Exactly.

    ETA: agree that Fight Club was a terrific book.

  10. #10
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    I never think about this. I'm just interested in a well-developed story with interesting ideas. I definitely dislike prose in which I'm aware of the writer's effort at writing (don't know a better way to describe it).
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  11. #11
    Derailed WriteMinded's Avatar
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    I can't answer the OP's question. I know it when I experience it. I mark it. I copy it. I store it away for the sheer pleasure of taking it out and reading it again.

  12. #12
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Layla Nahar View Post
    I never think about this. I'm just interested in a well-developed story with interesting ideas. I definitely dislike prose in which I'm aware of the writer's effort at writing (don't know a better way to describe it).
    THIS.

    I will sometimes catch my breath (and read aloud) a particularly effective passage, knowing full well that the author probably labored over it to make it just right. But if I'm made aware of that labor in the initial reading, I'm instantly put off.

    It's the same struggle in acting: the minute you put technique before storytelling, you're getting between the audience and the experience. Yes, the technique has to be there, but it can't call attention to itself or it gets in the way of the story.
    Last edited by mrsmig; 07-16-2017 at 07:07 PM.
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    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    Technique and storytelling go hand in hand for me.

    Technique which calls attention to itself is usually an unsuccessful attempt. That's often the difference between purple prose and beautiful prose, although they look similar in many respects.

    I will read books that are functional though, where the writing is do it's job. Not everything has to be Michelangelo.
    “Is it possible that the relationship between humanity and evil is similar to the relationship between the ocean and an iceberg floating on its surface? Both the ocean and the iceberg are made of the same material. That the iceberg seems separate is only because it is in a different form. In reality, it is but a part of the vast ocean.”
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  14. #14
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    Sentences have a beat and a tempo. To me, the easier everything flows from one word or sentence to the next, the better. I'm not talking flowery dressed up sentences, but a smooth read with a certain pace to the words. It's tricky to define it exactly, but I know when a sentence of mine is out of touch with the rest of the story, and aim to fix those during the polishing phases.

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    Still at it! Odile_Blud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spottedgeckgo View Post
    Sentences have a beat and a tempo. To me, the easier everything flows from one word or sentence to the next, the better. I'm not talking flowery dressed up sentences, but a smooth read with a certain pace to the words. It's tricky to define it exactly, but I know when a sentence of mine is out of touch with the rest of the story, and aim to fix those during the polishing phases.
    I agree with this, and I know what you mean. There's a rhythm to it. One that's hard to describe but, yeah, I get what you're saying.
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  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I enjoy terse prose. Hemingway comes to mind. Give me a bare minimum, and let me explore it for myself.

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    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odile_Blud View Post
    This is just a question out of curiosity. There are different styles and different way of writing, none are objectively better than the other. It's all a matter of taste, and I'm just curious of what your opinion may be. What do you consider beautiful prose?
    Prose that's evocative, lyrical. Prose that verges on poetry.

  18. #18
    figuring it all out Shirokitty's Avatar
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    There's just a certain flow in the way some people write that I can't quite explain. It is that flow, I think, which makes a skilled writer. When a skilled writer then goes on to inject a bit of themselves into the writing, describing a thing in a way that only they can explain, it creates something beautiful.

  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW CJSimone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odile_Blud View Post
    This is just a question out of curiosity. There are different styles and different way of writing, none are objectively better than the other. It's all a matter of taste, and I'm just curious of what your opinion may be. What do you consider beautiful prose?
    To me beautiful prose has a certain lyrical quality. It flows and is effortless to read. It brings beautiful images to mind.

    I appreciate beautiful prose, but that's not actually what I look for in a story. I look for interesting characters first and foremost. I look for an interesting storyline and a compelling read. I don't need beautiful writing, just writing that doesn't annoy me or stand out as all wrong (for me, unnatural dialogue does this more than anything). I'd rather not notice the writing and whether it's beautiful or not; I want to get lost in the story. IMO there's a lot of beautiful, boring writing out there that I have no interest in reading.

    CJ

  20. #20
    Twitching ap123's Avatar
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    I think there are different ways for prose to be beautiful, and I appreciate many of them. There's beauty in clean, sharply drawn characters and prose that speak to the everyday/everyman as well as prose that holds poetry within the text. In my mind it's like music; I love blues and jazz, classic rock, a beautifully played violin will move me to tears, but I also love and see the beauty within punk. Regardless of genre, I would never think ugh, I hate the way that riff calls attention to itself, the song would work and the pace would be faster with it. Does that make sense?

    IMO very few novels and novelists have it all--beautiful prose, riveting characters, and fantastic storyline. If the prose has that aforementioned lyrical quality, I can not only forgive but not notice plot holes until I've finished the book--and still not care.
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  21. #21
    "The Moving Finger writes..." M.S. Wiggins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odile_Blud View Post
    What do you consider beautiful prose?
    The kind I can’t forget. The kind that I see ‘often imitated,’ but rarely, ‘duplicated’.

    It sticks long after reading and haunts even longer. It is gorgeous, yet quite frequently, the signature of its beauty lies solely in the individual mind.
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  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW
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    Don't you think a lot of it depends on whether it's literary or genre? My literary friends love it when the prose is so beautiful that it stops them in their tracks, and they re-read it almost as if it were poetry. In genre, taking a reader out of the story for the sake of a bit of beautiful prose might be the kiss of death.

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW
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    Anything that conveys something deep within a few simple words.

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    For me, beautiful prose is prose that I don't notice, prose that gets out of the way of the story.

  25. #25
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Beauty is truth, truth beauty​

    Keats was onto something there, I think

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