Purple Prose (I.e. please read an excerpt and tell me if it's too flowery)

#1

So I’m writing this story. It’s fantasy, and I want it to have the tone of a retold fairy tale. But I’m worried the prose is too formal/flowery/overdone and readers won’t connect with it. Here is an excerpt. I would love any thoughts.

"I will not be an Empress tomorrow. My entire life was spent preparing to be Empress, and I thought that my wedding had finally cemented that goal. But I will not be an Empress tomorrow, and my husband will be free to remarry.

There is a custom among my people – when a woman marries, she braids a barbed wire into her wedding plait, so that her new husband will know that a woman is no docile thing. So that he will know that she bites. I went to my wedding with my hair unbound, face and hair alike covered with a veil of the softest silk. I wonder, sometimes, if things would have been different if I had entered marriage as a woman of my people should, ready for war.

But I was not bred for war – I was meant to bring peace between the mountain tribes and this southern emperor. The peace has failed – the messenger rode in last month, his horse’s flanks lathered with sweat. He was brought before the emperor still wearing the dust of the road.

The news was not good, but my husband delighted in telling it to me all the same. My father was dead, my family home burned and razed, a rival claiming to be the chief of the mountain tribes and demanding that the empire’s caravans pay a toll on the trade road.

The peace is over, and my marriage is next. I pray that my life will not end with it.

Morning comes, so quickly that it is if Thief Goddess herself deigned to steal the night away from me, and with the dawn come the guards at my door, with their heavy footfalls and heavy hands that bruise when they grab my arms.

They have been waiting to lay hands on me, I know. I am the Imposter Empress, the mountain girl who pretends to be royalty. It is, they think, no better than what I deserve.

I expect them to drag me to the throne room of my husband the emperor, but they take me to the fane, where these southern people worship my husband’s god. They throw me to the floor, and my knees hit stone. I look up into my husband’s eyes, and hate the hands that hold me down.

I would kneel to no gods but my own, had I any choice. "

#2

No, it is not flowery or poetic or purple. It sounds perfectly modern, so don’t worry.

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#3

It’s not purple prose at all. It’s just heavy in drama, which just gives it a strong personality, which is great.

Purpose prose is, “I sit by the window, like a glimpse into the soul of the Earth. The smell of spring, flowers, and morning permeate my nose, and I feel it take seed in my lungs. I close my eyes and rest my golden haired head on the stone, which was coarse and cold as if winter had come the night before to surprise us all. I could not wait for the day to begin, as it was the day of my birth, the day my soul entered this world. I would celebrate with joy, harmony, and many songs, like a baby rabbit on spring morning ready to explore the green foliage of his new home.”

The only issue, and why you might think yours is purple prose, is becuase it’s sort of jumbled. Purple prose feels a bit jumbled becasue it goes off on a lot of tangets to describe things. What you have presented us with went off on a lot of tangents. It would take one step forward in plot, and then divert off into backstory.

Although, I suuuper love the voice here, and you have a really interesting start! I think just finding a better way to arrange it will make it read so much smoother. I definitely connected it and immediately wanted to know your main character more!

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#4

Thank you so much! That input really helps :slight_smile:

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#5

I agree with the others! Definitely not purple prose. It does sound very old-timey and formal, which I know can turn some readers away (just because I had a few people mention it to me when I first published my story), but the vocabulary is rich and beautiful. You do a great job at conveying her emotion! And I absolutely loved some of those descriptions, like

because they’re simple, yet effective. It won’t appeal to every reader, to be sure, but I think a lot of people would adore this writing. Really good job on this! :slight_smile:

#6

It’s not purple prose, but it’s very telling and most of the paragraphs are heavy in exposition. All those customs and backstory are just dumped on the reader instead of being naturally developed in the plot.

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#7

I second @SallyMason1. You should start the segment with the messenger coming to the emperor and delivering the news. During which, your MC could have the ramifications running through her head. Action + information is more pleasant to digest.

#8

Okay, thanks. It’s just a first draft. I’ll adress that in revisions I just wanted to get input on the purple prose thing because it’s something I’ve been reading about and trying to understand, after reading reviews of a published book I liked that were very critical of purple prose

#9

No this isn’t really purple. This is actually really sharp, crisp and beautifully written. This is flowery

The blazing sun lit up the resplendent morning sky, and in all it’s glory, the people raved and cheered as the sun rose so diligently. The vibrant purple flowers shone in the light of the sparkling sun. The lonely man walking down the street was sad for no one was linked to his lonely arm.

Something like that.

#10

Cut out the superfluous a’s and that’s. There’s too many of them. See the words in bold. It’s a good story and descriptive but is clogged by too many determiners.

"I will not be an Empress tomorrow. My entire life was has been spent preparing to be Empress, and I thought that my wedding had would finally cement that goal. But I will not be an Empress tomorrow, and my husband will be free to remarry.

There is a custom among my people – when a woman marries, she braids a barbed wire into her wedding plait, so that her new husband will know that a his woman is no docile thing; so that he will knows that she bites. I went to my wedding with my hair unbound, face and hair alike covered with a veil of the softest silk. I wonder, sometimes, if things would might have been different if I had I entered marriage as a woman of my people should, ready for war.

#11

As the others said, it’s not purple prose as such.

A big challenge with 1st person writing is the “stream of consciousness” / stuck in the head of the protagonist issue; obviously, when writing 1st person, you want to know the protagonists thoughts and feelings, but it’s (typically) considered to be bad writing to basically have the entire story take place in the protagonist’s head.

As I personally get caught out by this far too often as well so to be honest I go and count paragraphs, blunt as the method is. If it’s more than three inside the protagonist’s head there better be a really, really good reason for it, otherwise it gets cut to pieces and replaced (or at least interrupted) by internal action.

I suppose a better writer would do that sort of thing instinctively but, eh, what works works, right …

#12

Yeah, it’ll get revised. I was just trying to figure out the purple prose thing, since I hadn’t heard the term before and then I did and thought maybe it was a problem in my writing.

This excerpt has other problems, just wanted to figure out if it was considered purple

#13

As mentioned, not purple. I like the narrative tone, actually, BUT – it’s all telling. It feels very distant. I would want the story to drop into a closer perspective pretty quickly or I wouldn’t be able to empathize with the protagonist.

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