“Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy purple patches.”
Purple prose means a word, phrase, sentence, or any written passage that is too ornate, too flowery, too over-the-top – in fact, too anything. Purple prose draws attention to itself and away from the story.
The most obvious kind of purple prose is romantic or erotic prose. It’s the easiest place to go over the top. Perhaps because the words we give to sexuality are usually either too clinical or too crude. If you say “He patted her mammary glands” it’s not very exciting, but “He grabbed her boob” is crude. Neither is purple, though. Purple would be “His sweaty hand gently caressed her hot heaving bosom, leaving a slimy trail on her rose-colored nipples.”
As I told my audience, your stories will shine brighter against black and white. Even if you are tempted to write purple, remember Horace and keep those flashy purple patches to yourself. Although I admit that I kind of like my sentence about a slimy trail on a hot heaving bosom. I may have to find a place for it anyway, despite Horace.
Do you have a favorite purple passage?