September 4, 2017 at 4:33 am #3447
[Work in Progress]
Don’t be purple!
What is “purple?” It dates back to the Roman poet Horace over 2000 years ago (no, really) when people would sew purple patches into their clothing to appear richer than they really were (indigo dye was expensive, so purple was associated with riches and royalty). Horace made the parallel that authors sometimes do this – they will have rather plain writing for most of their story and patches of writing where it looks like someone vomited a thesaurus or two over the page, with over the top descriptions to boot.
Why is this bad? Immersion. At all points, you want your reader to forget they’re reading a book. If your reader suddenly is thrown off by “wait, this is out of place,” that kills immersion.
There are times when going purple can be okay: Dialogue is the primary one. Take a look at Captain Barbossa in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. He speaks entirely purple – and it works, because that’s his character (and because Geoffrey Rush owns that role.) In other places, you might have a character who sees one particular thing very vividly and emotes greatly over that thing so to them, everything about it is vibrant and worth describing.
But be careful with this sort of thing. Avoid it unless you’ve got a handle on it.
Please, don’t go about describing someone bleeding out, with “on the ground, the parched dust being sprinkled with life-fluid.” Bro, just say “he bled a lot.” These phrases might sound nice – and in and of themselves they might be good writing – but if they don’t fit everything else you’ve got, don’t use it.
Just don’t use the word “Suddenly” when describing something that is about to happen in your story. It just delays the action and makes it less sudden for the reader.
Avoid them when doing descriptions. Use them when you want faster pacing. Don’t say “surreptitiously,” describe the action and let the reader realize they’re being surreptitious.
The difference in this can help with pacing. I’ll get to that later.
Don’t tell, show. Except when you should tell.
When you can afford the words (like when you’re not in an action scene, and especially when you’re about to be in an action scene) avoid outright telling the reader things. Show them. Don’t say, “he was angry,” say things that show his anger. What is he doing because he is angry? [more to come…]
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