Tag Archives: lush writing

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.



This post originally appeared on my other blog February 12, 2011. Seeing as how lately I’ve been in the mood for lush writing, I thought this and another old post or two might interest readers…

My preference is for a lean, mean, crisp writing style–no wasted words. That is, until I find something like this:

While the dreary day faded into a drearier dusk, in a world colorless except for the blazing roses, Jack sat in the snow, oblivious of the dampness and cold, and spoke to Jenny as he had spoken to her during her years in a coma. He told her about the Guardmaster heist yesterday, about giving away all the money. As the curtain of twilight pulled down the heavier drape of night, the memorial park’s security guard began driving slowly around the grounds, warning the few late visitors that the gates would soon close. Finally Jack stood and took one last look at Jenny’s name cast in bronze letters on the headstone plaque, now illuminated by the vaguely bluish light from one of the streetlamps that lined the park’s main drive. “I’m changing, Jenny, and I’m still not sure why. It feels good, right… but also sort of strange.” What he said next surprised him: “Something big is going to happen, Jenny. I don’t know what, but something big is going to happen to me.” He suddenly sensed that his newfound guilt and subsequent peace with society were only the beginning steps of a great journey that would take him places he not yet imagined. “Something big is going to happen,” he repeated, “and I sure wish you were here with me, Jenny.”

Strangers, by Dean Koontz, © 1986

In the afterword in this edition/reprint of this novel, Koontz tells how he wrote Strangers entirely on speculation. It was a leap of faith, no guarantees it would ever sell, but he felt compelled to do it his way. After receiving his largest advance ever, he was offered a six-figure bonus if he’d cut the 960 page behemoth (about 240,000 words) by 30%. He refused. Published anyway, it went on to become a mega-bestseller.

This isn’t one of my fave Koontz novels. His more recent novels are leaner, more tightly written, and certainly easier to prop up on my chest when I’m reading in bed. Still… dense, lush, even bordering on overblown writing works sometimes. It certainly worked in this novel and even my manic inner-editor would have a hard time figuring where and what to cut. If that’s what a writer has to do, then that’s what he has to do.


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