Purple Prose and Other Orphaned Sentences

Image of a purple wall

I thought I’d share some sentences I wrote but then deleted from various stories because the sentences were too full of purple prose or otherwise just not right.

Foreboding weather:

Dew licked the earth’s skin, and morning slithered forth.

I tried my hand at present tense in a story set in springtime:

Beyond the hayfields, dense clouds blot out the horizon, but the sun will set nonetheless. Overhead, a murky sky presses down on my very being while swallows naively chirp and dance amongst skunky blossoms of the pear tree.

Later, in the same story when the sun is setting:

When the sky turns from grey to puce, the birds abandon their waltz and pear blossoms for hushed safety under the eaves.

These three orphaned sentences have a Western vibe:

The dusty landscape was silent, lifeless. To the east, brutal blue skies stretched to oblivion. To the west, a lenticular cloud, broad and dense and held up seemingly by magic, lingered above the thirsty cornfields and waited.

From a contemporary, suburban ghost story:

At the back of Dora Rathborne’s closet, in the shadowed space between her silk blouses on the left (sorted by color) and her slacks on the right, the face of her long-dead husband stared back and grinned.

And finally, my poor protagonist in Witch of the Manor House was trapped by an incoming storm:

The clouds made noise that rattled his chest, and the November wind hit the tree so hard that autumn leaves flew off like brown, sideways-falling snow.

While I like the sentences that I cut, I don’t necessarily like the surrounding paragraphs that are still in the stories (argh!). I wish I could write paragraphs that are strong enough to support the type of sentences I deleted. But I’m not there yet. This writing thing is harder than I thought, and my skill progression is slower than I expected. But, eh, what can ya do? I press on . . .

p.s. R.K. Russell published one of my poems for his Weekly Featured Poem series. I wrote this poem in memory of my high school classmate. She was a petite girl with pale, stick-straight hair that was oddly stiff, like a Barbie doll’s, and her voice was like a butterfly, beautiful but easily crushed by careless people. Even now, decades later, her death still haunts me.

Feature image by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

69 thoughts on “Purple Prose and Other Orphaned Sentences

  1. Wow, this is such an interesting post. You are so right. We do cut our most interesting sentences. I have read sentences in other books where I know if they had been in my book I would have cut them without a second thought.

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  2. I enjoyed reading ON GRASS AND LEAVES DECAYED. It was creepy. How flattering to be compared to a Stephen King opener.

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  3. Once I cut them they are gone. Never thought about keeping some. These are really good. I like the descriptive nature especially the one about seeing the dead husbands face grinning. Nice work.

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    1. Thank you, Anthony. I reworked the Midwestern falling snow sentence into a vampire scene this week. Sent it off. Guess I’ll see if the sentence worked this time or not. Thanks for commenting.:-)


  4. I do like these orphaned sentences, but I have learned, even in poetry less is more. My Dad always told me that and he was a wise man.
    I love you poem on R. K Russell’s blog and it is really quite special. 💜

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    1. Thank you, Willowdot21. My classmate’s violent death still haunts me. I don’t think we (her classmates) will ever forget her. Flowery words, decor, dessert, television . . . yeah, less is more. Thanks for stopping by.


  5. I agree with the comments about Dora’s husband sentence, Priscilla. I also quite liked the Western sentence (I’m happy you’ve reworked it into something else) and the last one. I don’t keep the sentences I’ve cut off or reworked, but I’m not given to much descriptive and purple prose, so mine tend to me more pedestrian. It also depends on what you’re writing, I guess. I’ve read books full of descriptive writing where nothing much happened and loved them to bits, so I’m not always sure that “kill your darlings” is the best advice. It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If your narrator is somebody who would write that way, for example, that would be a great opportunity to let go, and if you’re writing a gothic novel… well, the sky is the limit!

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words and the advice, Olga. In fact, I recently read a book that was entirely descriptive. It’s called The Extinct by Xiaole Zhan, and it’s written in free verse. I’m shocked at how much I enjoyed a novella-length poem. I’m glad you commented.:-)


    1. Thank you, Emmy. I actually reworked one of them and injected it into a vampire story. I guess it’s a good idea to keep the orphaned sentences. I’m glad you stopped by!


  6. Writing is definitely difficult and you’ll get there for figuring out everything so it all fits together in the paragraphs in the way you want! I love purple prose but I know sometimes it doesn’t work for some authors or some lines just don’t fit.

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  7. Beautiful descriptions, but I can see why you had to cut them as unfortunately beautiful description usually has to do. However, the Dead husband in the closet gave me chills. If that’s what you cut, what did you keep?!

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