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. Clever idea, Priscilla. I could not even see the text in the first example and could not only see there were letters in the second example without being able to read any of them. This was a fun post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, well, that’s NOT actually what I meant to do. On the web page itself, the text is white on purple. I’ll change it, just make everything black on lavender or something. Thanks for the heads up.


      1. I was thinking the same about Dora Rathborne and her closet. Oh, and about writing being easier said than done. My writing has been shitty this summer, but then again—I’m drafting. I just read an interview with Haruki Murakami. (I’m also reading his novel Kafka on the Shore, which I’m thoroughly enjoying). Anyway, he says his novels go through five of six complete revisions.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That Dora, she caused a stir on this post.:-) Oh goodness, five or six complete revisions of a novel-length manuscript! I hope your draft comes together. I’m going to go take a look at Kafka on the Shore; thanks for the rec. I’m glad you stopped by, Crystal.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I too really like the Dora’s closet snippet. I also fell in love with the birds and the hushed safety under the eaves. That one just needs some tweaking.

    I’m not a fan of purple prose, but I do love lyrical prose. Sometimes it’s just a matter of tweaking and trimming to find the fit you’re looking for. I think you have an excellent way with words and descriptive “music.”

    I’m so sorry about your friend. I left you a comment on the other blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do have trouble seeing the difference between purple and lyrical prose. Except when it’s extreme. I mean, if I’m rolling my eyes or giggling, that’s purple for sure.:-)

      Thanks for reading my poem and commenting. Her violent death sure did shock our school. (Yes, the police caught the guy.)

      I’m glad you commented, Mae.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if ornamental pear trees are a thing in Northamptonshire, but their blossoms stink. Pear trees in the spring and ginko trees in autumn, pretty but weirdly stinky.

      Thanks for commenting, Julia.


  3. Those are lovely sentences, and even without the context of their surrounding story, I still like them. A little goes a long way, though, and I have read books where it goes on for pages, which isn’t good.
    Congratulations on your poem. Such a sad thing to happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fun post. The first example made me laugh. Sorry. I know you said you liked the lines, but dew licking the earth is funny . The morning slithering away – now that’s a keeper. Some of this purple is quite good, like the husband’s face in the closet. But you probably don’t need so much description on the clothes. Of course, without reading the context, I’m just stabbing orphans. (ha!) Stephen King said, you have to kill your darlings (the sentences or paragraphs that you love but just don’t fit.) I know that pain.

    Really liked the poem. Congratulations on getting it published. I’m glad they caught the guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I laughed, too. Dew doesn’t really lick . . . kissed . . . uh . . .

      I actually had something about killing darlings as a title, but with the violence in our country right now, and with my poem about my childhood friend, it just made me feel bad. Thus the purple and the orphans. Glad you stopped by, JeanMarie.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I have absolutely no problem with a bit of purple prose in a story. Nothing wrong with sucker-punching your reader with a good lyrical bit of description before getting on with the utalitarian writing of telling the story. And you seem to have a natural talent for descriptive writing. Why not hone it? Write a few short stories that are purely descriptive pieces? You’re too good at this to doubt yourself!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, such kind words, thank you. Gosh, I never thought to try the opposite of what I always do. I sit in front of my WIP and stress about cutting out unnecessary words and phrases and trying not to bore the reader and so I should get to the action and goal and conflict and snappy dialogue . . . .

      You’ve given me something to mull over. Thanks for commenting, Jessica.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My absolute pleasure! Remember, we all have different writing ‘voices’. Some are more purple than others – mine’s fairly indigo actually! Don’t be afraid of purple, just work it naturally into your narritive 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a tendency to purplize, Priscilla, and am so thankful when I (or someone else) catches them. Often the sentence can be saved if we rinse off some of the color. 🙂 The first one did make me laugh. 😀 Happy Writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Dora’s closet is a good one. Definitely has possibilities I like the image of brown sideways snow too, but i think I’d leave out the part about the clouds. There are different shades of purple, some of them quite pleasing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have mixed feelings about purple prose. When you look up the definition it’s described as “prose that is too elaborate or ornate”. I tend to agree. I’ve been guilty of it, but now I catch myself when I’m writing it, and stop. It has its place and can sometimes work but often it’s so self-indulgent it shocks me out of the story. It feels like trying to eat a rich piece of chocolate cake covered in squirty cream.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You know I was drawn to the snippet about Dora’s closet – love that imagery. So very sorry about your friend, Priscilla, but I’m glad the guy responsible was caught.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you re Dora’s closet. You’d think it wouldn’t matter if the perpetrator was caught or not because it doesn’t bring her back, but somehow, it does matter. So I’m glad, too, that he was caught. Thanks for stopping by, Teri.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Regardless of each one’s merits, stories have a certain flow to them. If your writer’s instinct tells you that the sentence breaks the flow, it has to go away. Or possibly just be moved elsewhere in the text.

    But if you’ll allow me to be a bit analytical, I think the reason everyone enjoys the Dora Rathbone fragment is because the flow is really great! “At the back of the closet” – she’s trying to hide something – “in a shadowed space” – again, it’s a dark area, meant to conceal – “her blouses color coded” – tells us so much about her character, that’s she’s maybe overly controlling or obsessed with details – “her dead husband’s face grinning” the image shatters this illusion of perfection she is trying to maintain.

    Excellent work!

    Liked by 3 people

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