Friendly Friday – The Colour of Purple Prose


Purple prose is flowery and ornate language. It sacrifices plot and clarity for indulgent detail. A piece of prose can be entirely purple, or it can have ornate bits sprinkled throughout. We call cases of the latter “purple patches. Purple prose is like showing up in stilettos to go on a hike. The language doesn’t match the occasion or the character. It draws attention to itself. It doesn’t advance the action, clarify the plot, or reveal a character’s intentions or thoughts. It’s fluff — description for description’s sake. Imagine being thirsty and drinking out of a fire hose instead of just getting a glass of water. This is what purple prose does. It drowns the reader.”

Sandy’s prompt for Friendly Friday is all about purple and she included an explanation of purple prose. She also threw out a challenge to finish a sentence using the most purplish prose and also how she would be challenged at Uni to shorten a piece of prose by 50%. I could not resist this kind of writing challenge.

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Which of the following versions do you like best? Like the above photo, the first passage is OTT and I warn you it is so purple, it’s blue!


Purple – Complete the sentence: It was a dark and stormy night …

It was a dark and stormy night, of the kind that is punctuated intermittently with angry, tense thunderclaps, and a murky iron blackness that swallowed any chance a moonbeam might stray upon the field of still blossoming, lemon-yellow canola flowers, or the leafy green hedgerow that stoically hugged the rain-soaked asphalt, when a decrepit, rust-ridden jalopy, complete with chrome plating and red vinyl upholstery with loosening stitching, wobbled and slid unceremoniously along the narrow lane; its similarly torpid, disheveled driver with whisky soaked breath blissfully unaware a malevolent evil waited within the protracted, wispy shadows of the grim, concrete-grey mansion positioned atop the hill.

And now for the shortened version:

It was a dark and stormy night, punctuated with thunder and a blackness that blocked any view of the surroundings, when a disheveled whisky-soaked man drove his aging vehicle haphazardly towards the foreboding mansion on the hill, blissfully unaware of the evil that awaited him.

Join in with the Friendly Friday Blog Challenge. A new prompt will be posted here in two weeks time.

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52 thoughts on “Friendly Friday – The Colour of Purple Prose”

  1. A triple thousand stars for your over the top purple prose!
    I didn’t get beyond the first three lines but that’s a sure sign of purple.
    Also loved your Alice Walker quote 😉

    Liked by 1 person

        1. No, don’t feel bad, Sandy! I liked doing the challenge. The first passage is ridiculous, but I liked the challenge of going OTT in just one sentence. That was the difficult part, keeping it running in the one sentence. How far could I push it? I had all this superfluous information I wanted to put in there and it was a great exercise in coming up with descriptive language. It did take time, but I had fun!

          Liked by 3 people

  2. Boy, you do seem to have a talent for writing purple prose Amanda 😆 Seriously, a great illustration of how not to write well, and a beautiful waterlily photo to calm us down 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It actually took quite some time for me to manipulate all those words into a sentence. It was overkill for sure, but that was part of the fun. I wanted to see how much I could jam into a sentence. I achieved overkill!! Lol!
      The Waterlily photo is quite old, but one of my best photos I feel.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. WELL DONE, Amanda! Great subject too. I don’t know if you were ever introduced to the old series “Dragnet” on TV. The cop always said “just give me the facts ma’am.” That’s the kind of writing I like and try to emulate. The only writing instruction I’ve ever had was at a senior center and was told to keep my posts around 500 words. Most people have a very short attention span and longer posts lose many readers. I have a friend who writes flowery (purple) prose and one who writes novels for each post. They always go to the bottom of my reading list as I have minimal time. I love the Alice Walker quote as well. Since I’m old, I’m wearing more purple. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The subject was Sandy’s for Friendly Friday, Marlene and I had a bit of fun with it. It actually took me quite a while to construct that verbose sentence, as I only wanted it to be one sentence but full of words! And it was!
      I haven’t seen Dragnet but it sounds like the type of show I would like.
      As for keeping posts to 500 words – I remember that being the recommendation. I think it has changed somewhat but am unsure whether shorter is still preferable. I think readers have shorter attention spans these days and as such, they like shorter pithy posts, as there are so many to be read, but SEO likes a longer post as it seems to progress higher in the google algorithm.
      I have heard of the red hat society and recently witnessed a get together at a local cafe. We were amazed as one by one, the ladies arrived all wearing scarfs and hats of red and dressy outfits – I remember them also being red or purple and some wore badges. We tried to pick out the leaders in the group from their body language! They looked like they were enjoying life.
      I think wearing purple works in a general sense when we age. It makes a statement and can be flattering with those of us with greying hair.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d never heard of purple prose. Wonderful example for illustration Amanda. However, your second paragraph indicates you may have missed your calling. It’s a great introduction to a scary fiction tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A few folks have mentioned that the second paragraph should be an opening line – I don’t really write too much fiction but I may be tempted to try… I love watching fictional detective shows from Scandinavia, so I guess some of that has rubbed off. Thanks for the lovely compliment. I am trying to remember where you might be atm, if you are midway on your trip yet?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes. It seems as much an effort to write “bad” prose as good! I was surprised. Although it did help me to extend my descriptive vocabulary. Thanks for your comment? Are you a writer outside of blogging?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The stiletto heels comment reminds me of a brief conversation I had with a girl in high school. She said that she’d forgotten her gym clothes for a physical education class and the coach – having no sympathy – forced her to play baseball. The girl was wearing dress slacks and high heeled shoes. “You don’t know how hard it is to run in high heel shoes,” she told me. I pretended to think for a second and said, “You know…I never thought of that.” She didn’t think that was funny. LOL!

    Purple prose is the vice of every first-time author. We want to communicate as much information about the setting as possible, so the reader can develop the type of image we have in our minds. But we forget that – unless we’re dealing with historical texts or biographies – we need to let the reader create the relative images in their own minds in order to enjoy the story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with you, Alejandro. Catefully chosen words will create that image, in the reader’s mind. We should not have to ‘tell’ them everything. Only children need to be spoon fed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad you defined purple prose here. Not long ago I wrote about how I was not one to use purple prose and I was amazed by how few people knew what it meant. I assumed it was common knowledge, but I was wrong. Which is nothing new… 🤷‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When Sandy posted this challenge prompt, I thought I recalled you writing about purple prose, which I had only recently become acquainted with, a month or two prior to your post. Thanks for jogging my memory. Is it a contemporary term?

      Liked by 1 person

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