In Praise of Purple Prose

This post also originally appeared in February 2011. I was in the mood then and the cycle has come back around. Enjoy!

“He felt it rising within his chest, and before he knew it, before he could stop it, the laughter bubbled up out of him. It erupted from his gut and spilled out like vomit, choking him, twisting his gut, and spasming his chest. It boiled quickly to the level of simple hysteria and flew upward from there. He laughed until tears welled from his eyes and snot bubbled in his nostrils and blood splattered the ground as he beat it with his fist. He shook and shivered and rocked from side to side as the blood erupted from his leg and soaked the greedy dirt.”

From: Ghost Road Blues, by Jonathan Maberry, 2006

Not that the excerpt is purple, but it is rich. Lush. Over the top. Fun.

In writing, as in life, there’s such a thing as being too safe. Too cautious and correct, mild-mannered and meek. Writing that timidly lifts a polite, self-conscience hand and says, “Pshaw, don’t bother looking at me.”

Okay, we won’t. Happy now?

Write your early drafts while saying, “No one will ever see this shit, so I can write anything I please!” Then blast it out of your story-maker, bold,  outrageous, overblown, muscular, and even, dare I say, purplish. Have fun with thesauri. Play with words. Write marathon sentences. Let your characters piss, moan, cry, wail, and howl. Let them love as no one has loved before. Let their hate bubble and boil straight from the bowels of Hell. Let yourself be stupid, sly, clever, moronic, delusional, and insane. Make each paragraph a bull out of the chute. Hell, plaster the page with puns. No one has to know.

Once it’s on the page, you have something to work with. Something that can’t even spell constipation, much less be so. You’ll see the good stuff peering up with hopeful eyes, begging you to clean off the verbal vomit and detritus. Which you will gladly do, ending up with rich, vivid, meaty writing that begs to be read and savored.


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