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View Poll Results: What do you prefer? See post question.
Flowery over plain 0 0%
Plain over flowery 4 40.00%
A bit of both 6 60.00%
Other (please specify) 0 0%
Voters: 10. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1    
Old March 14th, 2011 (07:29 AM).
Beechlgz Beechlgz is offline
 
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This is about language used.

Do you like in a story seeing descriptions which are very, well, 'flowery'? I'm not sure how to describe what that means, but just like poetic, beautified language? It can seem fancy to the reader. Or do you prefer language in stories that is very plain, blunt, straight-forward, not beautiful and not poetic? That doesn't mean it lacks description or feeling, it just means the words used don't make it sound so fancy or pretty.

I personally prefer plain and straight-forward to flowery language, I don't even like the in-between point. What about yourself?
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Old March 14th, 2011 (08:19 AM).
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I too just like the plain, blunt, straight forward language. To me, writing is about communicating and you tell the story the best way possible. True, lovely prose can make the storytelling stronger, but If you keep saying poetic stuff and I'm not sure what's going on, then to me that means you're not communicating to me well. I actually think you can go the in-between point, but you'll have to be skilled to be able to balance it out to not make your story flowery at the beginning and then straightforward at the middle.
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Old March 14th, 2011 (10:21 AM).
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Plain language. Like Bay said, writing is communication, and if your message gets jumbled up in fancy words, you're not really communicating all that well. And besides, plain language can be just as beautiful as flowery language.
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Old March 14th, 2011 (10:27 AM).
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It depends entirely on the writer. I'm not going to go straight out and say something like "Plain is better no matter what" or "Flowery is the best for everyone who ever wrote anything", it depends on how you handle both. Shakespeare was flowery, Waiting for Godot was not, they're both good in different ways. It just depends on the way you write, what you're writing about, and what your point is. When you plan the story, plan the language along with it. Is the story meant to emphasize action? Flowery language slows down a story, and would drag an action scene down (unless you're going for the bullet time effect). Is the story supposed to be a few moments in time? If you use plain language, the story will only be a few paragraphs long. It all depends on what you're writing, why you're writing it, and your own personal style.
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Old March 14th, 2011 (01:29 PM).
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Put it this way. There's a term for overly flowery language. It's called purple prose. Conversely, there is no terms for overly plain language.

The difference is that flowery language runs at a certain risk, and that risk is the fact that authors who overdo it end up focusing more on the way they're saying something than what they're actually saying. If the focus in your story is more about how beautiful your descriptions are, you're no longer concentrating on what's going on, what characters are saying, et cetera, and you end up saying nothing at all.

To make it a bit clearer, imagine that you have a gift. Whatever's inside the gift box is your story, and the wrapping is your prose. You have a certain amount of money to spend on both. If you spend all your money (i.e., words) dressing up the outside, then there's not going to be much inside, and whoever you're going to give that gift to won't be all that impressed. On the other hand, if you just have plain brown paper and a really epic gift, then your giftee might forgive you for the wrapping. Ideally, you'll probably want plain wrapping paper, sure (because you need some level of detail to keep a reader interested), but at least the plain brown paper + awesome gift is okay. Awesome wrapping paper and a crappy gift is not.

Same thing with a story. If you spend too much time being flowery, then the readers will find it harder to glean a point from all that prose and to take you seriously. Hence why I said you end up saying nothing at all -- because you drown out your point with things that don't even matter.

So, to cut it short, mostly straightforward, plain language. I only use flowery prose if I'm trying to build up to a joke, and I tend to take writers a little less seriously if I feel like a thesaurus was harmed in the making of a fic. Moreover, I'm willing to swallow Ernest Hemingway's prose (plain) more than I am Anne Rice's (THE SOFT, VELVET CURTAINS ARE PURPLE). Shakespeare is okay in my book if you realize his flowery prose is meant to be ridiculous anyway (because he did have an audience of lower-class folks to entertain)... which means he's probably a bad example of that kind of stuff done seriously.
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Old March 14th, 2011 (02:14 PM).
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Depends entirely on the scene in my opinion. Straight-forward narration is good if the writer themselves has sentence variation. I think it is possible to be too straight forward when you are writing a story. If you are just going to point A to point B without some sort of scenery, it gets a tad bit boring. You have to get people to believe that what you are writing is real. For me, I'm more in the middle--I like some flowery (or a minor degree of purple prose) and straight forward mending together.

A personal pet peeve of mine is reading a story and it feels like you are getting too much information. If you are taking three pages to explain a pillow, no, I'm not going to like that. But if you take the time to describe the scenery without taking away from the progress--I'm fine. I think people need to loosen a bit and explain things realistic.

Intense scenes needs some purple prose, in my opinion. Going too fast or too straight forward doesn't truly give the grasp of the situation. When some intense happens, it shouldn't be boring. Describing the small things in that scene could get someone's heart racing. But its a fleeting moment. You have to catch people off guard from going from broad and straightforward to refined and descriptive.

So my vote is going to go for a little bit of both. Don't drone me with details, but don't give me everything in plain sight either.
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Old March 14th, 2011 (02:49 PM).
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Quote originally posted by Sgt Shock:
Intense scenes needs some purple prose, in my opinion. Going too fast or too straight forward doesn't truly give the grasp of the situation. When some intense happens, it shouldn't be boring. Describing the small things in that scene could get someone's heart racing. But its a fleeting moment. You have to catch people off guard from going from broad and straightforward to refined and descriptive.
I think it might help to clarify what is meant by "flowery," "poetic," and "purple prose." To put it simply, there's a difference between providing a necessary amount of detail and going purple. The kind of thing you're describing is debatable. Fight scenes or scenes that, in general, depend on a certain level of description in order to convey what's going on obviously will need you to be detailed, but in those cases, you should only talk about what's necessary to know. For example, describing the crunch of someone's bones and their high-pitched squeal isn't flowery because it's building tone. Describing a hacker's fingers flying across the keyboard as he picks out code that flashes across his screen isn't flowery because it could provide some kind of plot point (e.g., an important code) while slowing down the action just enough for it to make sense (i.e., he doesn't find it in a split second).

Purple prose, in contrast would be doing any of these, usually in combination:

1. Going on and on forever about a single detail. The pillow example you brought up, essentially. This is bad because you risk wandering off the trail of your point and boring your reader, even if you're trying to write an action scene.

2. Providing details that serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever in a story. (Note that tone is also a purpose, but not everything in your environment helps build ambiance.) Example: Describing the exact pattern on someone's jeans, right down to the type of stitching. Alternatively, describing the exact placement of a nail on a floor. While it's possible for either to be important, if they're not, then don't bring them up because that not only slows down the narration but also implies a Chekhov's gun when one doesn't actually exist. This in itself is bad because... well. Chekhov's gun that doesn't actually exist.

3. This: On the backdrop of her opalescent skin, her burgundy lips parted whilst she transfixed, as if under a hypnotic spell, her emerald orbs on the sapphire mirrors embedded in the face of the subject of her greatest ardor.

It's usually #3 that's considered to be true purple prose. Note how many strange mental images you should hopefully conjure when reading it.

But yeah. Just because you describe a lot doesn't necessarily mean you're going purple. In fact, if you're still describing the amount necessary to understand the scene, you're defining the exact opposite of purple prose.
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Old March 14th, 2011 (03:08 PM).
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Quote originally posted by JX Valentine:
I
But yeah. Just because you describe a lot doesn't necessarily mean you're going purple. In fact, if you're still describing the amount necessary to understand the scene, you're defining the exact opposite of purple prose.
This is the exact reason why I like you around. You actually correct me when I'm wrong. See that's always been kind of a gray area for me. The reason why I said it the way that I did is mainly because I got blamed for it before. I was like "O_o" and figured that was the thought process behind it. I suppose my assumption was wrong on that fact. My apologies.

There is an extent where poetic language becomes purple. It becomes a problem essential when you details away from the scene that shouldn't actually be there. Thanks for your response as always, Valentine.
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Old April 14th, 2011 (08:18 AM).
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I prefer plainer language with a touch of flowery mixed in, both when reading and writing. Too flowery gets strange and a tad confusing, while too plain makes me feel as if something's missing.
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Old April 14th, 2011 (08:35 AM).
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Quote originally posted by JX Valentine:
Put it this way. There's a term for overly flowery language. It's called purple prose. Conversely, there is no terms for overly plain language.
Actually, I would beg to differ on that one. While it's not an official term, lack of detail is referred to by - at least the writers I know - as "beige prose". Without detail, words are just that - Words. One feels nothing for the story if they don't know what's going on, if they can't envision it. A few adjectives can make all the difference.

However, this is not to say I advocate purple prose. But at the same time, beige prose is equally unappealing to me. The trick is finding a balance; yin-yang if you will.

JX's other post with an example of purple prose details it nicely, but I would also like to comment a bit on the "wrapping paper" ideal. Say someone is seeing a scene or a person, and the current protagonist is taking it in. What would be more effective:

To use simple plain words (blue, blonde, etc) that could be any shade under the sun, or specify by using one direct word (sapphire, wheat, etc)? In that respect, it cuts out extra words that would be used to clarify the first example. It keeps things simple, while being direct. It may count as flowery, perhaps. But to me, it is far more useful.

Having a story that is bare-bones (beige prose) is usually just as bad as having an overdone one (purple prose).
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Old April 14th, 2011 (05:04 PM). Edited April 14th, 2011 by JX Valentine.
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Quote originally posted by SeleneHime:
Actually, I would beg to differ on that one. While it's not an official term, lack of detail is referred to by - at least the writers I know - as "beige prose". Without detail, words are just that - Words. One feels nothing for the story if they don't know what's going on, if they can't envision it. A few adjectives can make all the difference.
While it's not an official term, that's just it. It's not an official term. As in, people look down harder on purple prose than beige prose. Example? Ernest Hemingway's writing is probably as beige as you can get, but it's often seen as classic because his writing style is straight and to-the-point. There's no fluff, so all of his points are stark. Granted, it's not to everyone's tastes, and some people even claim it's boring. However, it's still more acceptable from a critic's standpoint than, well, the tackiness that is purple prose.

Also, it's completely dependent on the situation as well. Hemingway got away with it because what he was trying to say needed to be basically stripped down to the essentials. In other words, it may not be a good idea to use that kind of technique for chapters upon chapters of dense material, it's okay in a situation where you're more reliant on the tone built by having a lack of adjectives and straightforward prose. Conversely, there's no such thing as a situation where purple prose can be applied and pulled off except in the case where the piece is meant to be humorous because purple prose is inherently over-the-top.

In short, my point was that there are times where it's completely okay to use straightforward language, but there aren't times where it's completely okay to find yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum (unless you're writing humor that's meant to sound over-the-top). Does that make more sense?

Also, to respond to your question concerning things like blond versus wheat, the thing is, a reader should be able to discern what general colors things like blond hair is like. Simplifying it to just say "blond" also has the added advantage of giving your reader a little bit of wiggle room -- i.e., a chance to exercise their own imagination, add details to their own mental picture of a person, and connect a little more with the story by being forced to fill in a few details. You can't hold a reader's hand all the way through a work. While it's okay to describe things now and then, the happy medium is to give them general descriptor words instead of saying something like, "The boy with the wheat-colored hair fixed his sapphire orbs on the emerald grass." The latter example is considered borderline purple because aside from being the kind of writing you'd find in Suefic, it also conjures rather awkward mental images. (I mean, first off, it sounds overdramatic, and second, it's more likely that your reader will think of wheat fields before thinking of hair when they should just be thinking of hair first, if that even makes sense.)

I apologize for being blunt about it, but yeah, readers (from what I've experienced, in any case) generally have an easier time swallowing simplistic prose than over-the-top writing loaded with paragraphs upon paragraphs of descriptions of mauve, velvet curtains. Moreover, on the principle of Occam's razor, it's generally easier to go with the simplest explanation, to put it frankly. It means you're more reliant on what you're saying instead of the packaging on the outside. Yes, how much description you use depends on the tone you're trying to evoke, but never prioritize it over what you're saying. Furthermore, if you can say it in simpler words, say it in simpler words. Even just saying something is blue can pack more of a punch than saying something is sapphire-colored in more situations than one would probably think. (At the very least, you can avoid insulting your readers' imaginative capabilities.)
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Old April 15th, 2011 (01:14 PM).
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To me, the officialness of the term has nothing to do with the matter. It is what it is. Beige prose may get the point across without any "distractions", were I to lean in its favor, but it lacks things that make it recognizable. Distinction would be a good word. With everything beige, it removes traces of any style whatsoever that you can automatically link to a certain author.

And you're right about Hemingway - His writing is indeed as plain as it can get, and he did get away with it. But writing is a forever changing art. We can't expect to adhere to what is considered "classic", just because it's too restricting. We don't need to go over the top, but we can and should exercise our own imaginations.

It makes perfect sense, yes. I understand what you're saying, but I believe you misunderstand me.

In your following paragraph, my point is completely misconstrued and exaggerated. I did not say that every line had to be overflowing with adjectives, but to be supplemented. Simple sentences, some descriptive ones, etc. They're meant to be mixed. As I have already said (and I would rather not have to start beating a dead horse), it's about finding balance. Your interpretation of my example is indeed what you'd find in a Suefic, but was perhaps taken far too literally.

Instead of that, I meant describing a character or scene with a few adjectives and plain words both, and then use mainly average ones. If it's a chapter story, then drop the reminders in with reusing those adjectives occasionally. Note the key word. It's using good description properly.

Perhaps, but giving readers a little something to chew on is almost as equally as important as giving them the story. Without it, the reader is seeing very little. No one needs to be spoon fed every single detail of the story, but one also has to know what is a good amount of description and what words could make the scene the most powerful.
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Old April 15th, 2011 (04:00 PM).
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Actually, you're misunderstanding a lot of my post, if you don't mind me saying. :/ My entire point was that more people are okay with beige prose than purple prose. Moreover, there are modern authors who use simplistic style. Orson Scott Card, for example. A lack of adjectives doesn't necessarily convey a lack of unique style. After all, if you read Card or Hemingway, you know it's their writing. Rather, as I've said, a lack of adjectives can convey a sense of urgency, importance, or seriousness: you have just the story with no filler whatsoever.

I exaggerated the use of adjectives, meanwhile, to further illustrate my original point that it's easier to swallow straightforward prose than something purple.
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Old April 15th, 2011 (05:49 PM).
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Well, maybe I did misunderstand. We are only human, after all. My apologies.

It does seem we've made a fair variety of points for both sides of the argument, though. I'll leave it be for now so we don't keep repeating ourselves. However, it was a good discussion.
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Old April 18th, 2011 (08:36 PM).
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A bit of both.

There are parts of the story where it's great if you get descriptive and flowery with language, as it does lend some vivid reality to the setting you are trying to establish. There are also times in a story it's much more effective to be straightforward and avoid being overly wordy.

I hate English teachers who grade you based on how flowery your language gets...that's not what storytelling is about, even if their goal is to teach you it's use. I think publishers which require you to be wordy to an extent is just plain outrageous. No good story, in my mind, has to be 200+ pages in length, and crammed to the seams with flowery descriptions of even the most mundane of things. If it is mundane, keep your language mundane, if it is grandiose, vast, or majestic...then yes, perhaps you should flower things up a bit and draw a vivid picture with your words, because that's the point...just don't over-describe every freaking bit of flora/fauna/characters standing there no matter how heroic, evil or pitiful. ;)

I hope that most professional editors know this, and I take it on faith that they do, unless they happen to be bad at it. XD
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