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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lyrical Writing vs Purple Prose

For all you readers and writers out there, when do you consider writing as lyrical/beautiful?  And when do you define writing as over the top purple prose?  

Let the discussion begin.


m. thompson said...

Hmmm. This is a tough one. I think there's a fine line between the two. The lyrical lets me experience what's happening in the writing.

As for purple prose. I don't think I've really read it anywhere except in my own writing, where I have to slash, slash, slash! :-)

Anonymous said...

The simpler the writing, the better it is. My opinion. Not a fan of either.

PJ Hoover said...

Did you write this because of me? :)
Regardless, I'm looking forward to the comments!

m. thompson said...

Check this out: Check this out

Vivian said...

M. Thompson,
Thanks for sharing this article. Interesting stuff.
Yeah, your joke got me thinking. Which is always a good thing. :-)

And you've brought up another subject. Most people want the fluff taken out of a sentence.

What do you all think? What's your writing style preference?

Sarah Rettger said...

For me, at least, it totally depends on context. If I'm caught up in a great description, then it's lyrical. If it makes me stop and do a double-take, then it's purple.

Except for body part euphemisms. Can't stand those under any circumstances :-)

(Actually, that reminds me of an exchange in Silent in the Grave where the Victorian narrator has trouble finding a term she can use to describe her husband's anatomy, and the gruff detective is a bit amused by the alternatives she comes up with.)

Sarah Rettger said...

Sorry - meant to say that M. Thompson had already nailed it!

Vivian said...

I had to look up Silent in the Grave right away to see what it was about. It sounds really good!

Anonymous said...

Lyrical can take so many different forms. It doesn't have to be fancy words. Even the simplicity of words can be lyrical. The beauty in the words convey the emotion of the characters and transport me into the world.

Purple prose does border lyrical, and sometimes it can be beautiful too. But the writer is trying too hard and using too many adjectives, so it is often a complete failure.

That was an amusing article M. Thompson found--though I doubt people nowadays would agree with that article.

Beth Kephart said...

This is such an interesting question—and one that has plagued me since I was nine years old and started writing poems that transitioned to short stories, then memorirs, then a history book, then YA novels—but always it's the lyric that I hear as I write, the burst of words as they either flow together or snap apart.

For me, the sound of a sentence counts, and I imagine that this is because I'm so often writing about how characters are thinking and feeling.

Thanks for another provocative posting,


Christine M said...

Perhaps this is a case of "I know it when I see it".

I think that if you need a definition then Lyrical adds to a scene, purple detracts from it.

Beth Kephart said...

Vivian — thank you.

Very much.



Carolyn Blount Brodersen said...

I was just thinking about lyrical writing and I stumbled on your blog. My instinct is if lyrical fiction or nonfiction is done effectively, the reader may not notice it. Instead, they will feel--something--delight, like being included in a snippet of art, somehow lifted up. I am reminded of how jazz musicians taking an extended solo with sometimes throw in a riff from a familiar--and unrelated song. Clever, cool, inspired sort of jam, as Rickie Lee Jones said. Purple prose is obvious, like when Christine Aguilerra over-sings. Usually, she's amazing, but when she over-sings, I want to hit the mute button. Too much is too much. I guess it's all about subtlety of execution.