Purple Prose

I am writing this to say I know my prose is a little purple sometimes…all right, a lot of the time. I know because I have been told my work is too purple. I just thought I was writing me…

Well, I like purple and I like purple prose…what is purple prose anyway?

The Oxford Concise says: Purple Passage ‘an ornate or elaborate passage in a literary composition.’

The Macquarie Concise: Purple- ‘full of elaborate literary devices and pretentious effects.’

None of which sounds too good but I found somebody who agrees with me, somewhat..

‘Certain producers of plain prose have conned the reading public into believing that only in prose plain, humdrum or flat can you articulate the mind of inarticulate ordinary Joe. Even to begin to do that you need to be more articulate than Joe, or you might as well tape-record him and leave it at that. This minimalist vogue depends on the premise that only an almost invisible style can be sincere, honest, moving, sensitive and so forth, whereas prose that draws attention to itself by being revved up, ample, intense, incandescent or flamboyant turns its back on something almost holy – the human bond with ordinariness. I doubt if much unmitigated ordinariness can exist. As Harold Nicolson, the critic and biographer, once observed, only one man in a thousand is boring, and he’s interesting because he’s a man in a thousand. Surely the passion for the plain, the homespun, the banal, is itself a form of betrayal, a refusal to look honestly at a complex universe, a get-poor-quick attitude that wraps up everything in simplistic formulas never to be inspected for veracity or substance. Got up as a cry from the heart, it is really an excuse for dull and mindless writing, larded over with the democratic myth that says this is how most folks are. Well, most folks are lazy, especially when confronted with a book, and some writers are lazy too, writing in the same anonymous style as everyone else…..

…..The words represent, but they also re-present, and when the wordsmith turns to purple various things happen. The presence of the supervising wordsmith becomes more blatant, but the objects being presented in words have a more unruly presence. They bristle, they buzz, they come out at you.’

In Defence of Purple Prose – N.Y. Times – Paul West 15/12/1985

So there! I may not be main stream at the moment, but it is really a fashion thing…maybe I’ll come back into fashion…one day. Until then, I keep submitting and keep getting rejected… keep hoping.


By rosepoetartist

aka Percy Rose

4 replies on “Purple Prose”

From what I’ve read of your writing, I wouldn’t classify it as overly purple. There are readers out there who would love your stories, you, all of us, just have to find them.

But it doesn’t matter anyway. All writing is subjective. What one reader likes another hates and vice versa. Goodness me, it’s 2016, and what with the self publishing surge, there is room for all kinds of writing.

Me? I’m a minimalist. 😉

However, I don’t think in defending one’s writing style, another has to be put down. Or that readers who enjoy the less-is-more style of writing should be classified as lazy (not nice, Paul West). 😀


I agree he was a bit harsh…and I agree with you all types, all writes. Thanks for commenting. Rosa


I agree with Dale. It’s all in finding your audience. More than one person out there loves prose for the sake of prose (see all my fan-girl rants about the excellent work of Steven Erikson). Keep going!

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