12.13: Beautiful Prose, Purple Prose

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

The rising, golden sun crested the snowcapped eastern mountains, its first morning rays pouring like molten lemon through the window to glisten and gleam from the chrome grille of the studio microphone. The collapsing energy quanta of joyous photon goodness made no sound, but the microphone’s 4dB SPL-A noise floor changed subtly from cold white noise to the warmer, friendlier pink; a difference similarly found between the sussurus emanating from an air-handling system and the exhalation of a sleeping goddess.

The podcasters talked about writing stuff, and maybe something about adverbs. The microphone didn’t care. It was just happy to be getting some sunlight.


Make a paragraph purple. Maybe make one of our paragraphs purple…

The Devil’s Daughter: Hidden Sins Book 1, by Katee Robert, narrated by Carly Robins

22 thoughts on “12.13: Beautiful Prose, Purple Prose”

  1. I really needed that episode. I’ve found that I turn purple whenever I am describing the surroundings, which for me, usually aren’t that important. What I took from this is that you should contrast with purple prose where you want to emphasize the scene.

  2. The gleaming pauldron on Adolin’s brawny shoulder exploded into a burst of bright molten metal, glimmering pieces trailing ethereal smoke through the stale evening air. A hefty mass of the shattered heirloom skidded to the coarse granular sands like a highstorm leaving a trail of carnage and ruin in its furious wake. This left Adolin’s sweat-ridden flesh exposed to the tepid breeze, vulnerable to the celestial Blades facing him.
    I, the Blackthorn, plead on my humble knees . . . By the Almighty . . .
    Dalinar turned upon his hardened heels to a circular ring full of lavishly-garmented lighteyes. “You dare stand idle and gaze upon this injustice?” he belted, his deep rich voice reverberating through the hushed air. “My offsprings are left to fend alone! There are Shardbearers among you. Is there not one who will fight alongside them?”
    He swept glance across the packed crowd. The cowardly king peered at his feet, head shamefully bowed like a gutted whitespine. Amaram. Et tu Amaram? Dalinar spotted him silently seated adjacent to Elhokar. Their gazes clashed like piercing arrows met head-on in violent bridge raid. Amaram folded, glancing away.
    Storming coward . . .
    “What has become of us?” Dalinar shouted an open challenge. “Where is our honor?”
    “Honor is but a long-forgotten fancy, blown away like windspren on the brink of a raging highstorm, fleeting,” a soft voice whispered.
    Dalinar turned and found Captain Kaladin standing tall wearing his familiar morose facade. He hadn’t noticed the depressed bridgeman trekking down the hard steps.
    Kaladin inhaled a bated breath, then met Dalinar’s eyes. “Worry not, highprince,” he said. “I shall venture as to what I can accomplish. If this strays towards disaster, lead my men.” He clapped his hard hands onto his seasoned shoulders. Towering spear in his tight grip, Kaladin grabbed the edge of the stone embankment and launched himself over, dropping to the rough sands of the stunned arena below.

  3. Brandon has mentioned specifically the line “It was a silence in three parts” a couple of times. I just want to say those seven words are why I committed to the series and currently have B&N gift cards set aside for Doors of Stone.

  4. Original first lines

    “Mark, what are you reading?”
    I looked up. The teacher was talking to me. I knew that because she had said my name, ‘Mark’, and this year we only had one ‘Mark’. Two years ago we had had two boys named ‘Mark’ and that had been very confusing. I had never known if my teacher that year, who had been a man, had been talking to me. But this year we only had one ‘Mark’, so I knew she was talking to me.”

    Purpled translation

    The sudden, oppressive silence of the classroom, noticed by everyone except the the dark haired autistic boy huddled in his seat in the third row, who, oblivious to the silence and the concerted stares of his socially conscious classmates, perused a large, indeed college sized, text book, was suddenly broken by the voice of authority, “Mark, what are you reading?”
    Startled by the interruption, yet recognizing the syllables of my name, I reluctantly moved my gaze from the interesting to the dull, and glanced at the thirty year old mouse brown haired instructor. In previous years the syllables of my name might not have been specific to my personal identity; as they were common to others. However this year, at least this semester, they were unique to me. Gone was the confusion of other eras where I might have, inadvertently, attempted to respond to these syllables when they were more likely to have been addressed to another. This year, this semester, they were unique to my personal identity.

  5. I finally made through all 12 seasons! Thank you Writing Excuse team! Your podcast has been gold for my writing. I can’t wait to put the full brunt of what I’ve learned into play now.
    Here is your Purple Alloy of Law, Brandon. I hope you like it.
    -Andrew M.

    Original text (Alloy of Law prologue):
    He snorted and ran in a crouch to the fallen corpse and rolled it over. The man had been a cruel-faced fellow with several days of stubble on his cheeks; the bullet wound bled out his right side. “I think I recognize him,” Wax thought to himself as he went through the man’s pockets and came out with a drop of red glass, colored like blood.

    Make it Purple!:
    The gentleman laughed derisively. He quickly, albeit surreptitiously, approached the departed foe and bodily pushed the fallen man over. The would be assailant had seen many years, weathered by a harsh life, and completing the rictus now was several day of unkempt facial hair like moss on a fallen tree; life fluids dribbled from the seeping hole on the man’s dominant handed side, caused by her ammunition. “I think I recognize him,” Waxillium, Lord of House Ladrian surmised as he began to rifle through the haphazardly tailored recesses of the clothes that hung limply from his frame. He drew his hand from one such place, grasping now a crystalline shape that looked like the droplet of sorrow running down the porcelain face of a lady of noble standing, yet it was tarnished the sanguine hue of crimson stain.

  6. There’s an opening line to one of the books one of you authors that is one of my favorite opening lines of all time. There is a beauty to its simplicity and emotional impact that I find highly appealing.

    So, of course, I wrecked it:

    “Particulated felsic meandered softly through the firmament before, ultimately, alighting upon the accumulated detritus of previously felled felsic particulates.”

    I did not need a thesaurus to create this abomination. I’ll show myself out.

  7. So classic lines of stories- I think you’ll be able to figure it out.

    It is indeed a truism acquiesced without exception, that a bachelor in sole proprietorship of a worthwhile plethora of prosperity must have the ambition to wed a damsel before he perishes.

    I crave not a putrescent omelette and decaying pork of the thigh! I crave them not, Sam am I!

    I bid you, address my name as Ishmael for that is my name.

    Concealed, abiding in a burrow beneath a grassy countryside, was something like a man, but not a man for he had enormous hairy feet and had feddish for mushrooms. Moreover, he consumed about seven meals per day, and he enjoyed his tobacco- which I could very well concur some big people do take pleasure in doing so also, but not in the same manner this being, a Hobbit, would have.

  8. I didn’t go all out. But I’m okay with that.

    “Instead of dwelling solely in that downward spiral, she’d devoted her waking moments to entombing herself in medicomp files, studying the virus. She probed countless analyses specifying its structure, the proteins that made up the walls and receptor nodes, the genetic payload it carried inside. The hospital housed some sophisticated genetic equipment, some of the same antiques they had once used for genetic modification—everything from curing incurable diseases to modifying iris hue—but all the experts who actually knew how to use them had perished in the Break along with the rest of the forsaken world. It was ironic, in a way that was distinctly unfunny, that they had such incredible technology, in a time of every human’s living memory, that not a single one of them could even hope to understand. Sometimes Kira almost thought of the contraptions as magic: mystic artifacts from some long forgotten civilization. Dr. Skousen and his researchers studied them in darkened rooms, surrounded by the ancient tomes of their craft, but the magic was gone. They could unearth the genetic coding in RM, but they couldn’t come close to transmuting it, or even comprehending the cypher. All they could do was scrutinize, and speculate, and spend every waking moment yearning for a breakthrough.”

    Cross-reference: Chapter 19, paragraph 2 of Partials by Dan Wells

  9. Original:

    Donny stumbled down the sidewalk as best he could. The flashing lights of the cars driving by pounded his vision. Counting his steps seemed to help him stay on track, but his vision was an ocean wave. His mind tried to wander, but he forced it back to the task at hand.


    Donny wavered drunkenly along the cement path with all the force of will the human male could muster. The pulsing illumination of the automobiles’ guiding beacons as they hurried by assaulted his sense of sight. Mathematically tracking the movement of his transporting limbs appeared to assist him in keeping to his chosen trajectory, but his troubled sight was like a blue wave upon the stormy and vast ocean, moving rapidly and difficult to contain. His mental faculties attempted to meander aimlessly, but he dictated the force that drives his being back to the destiny in his immediate future.

  10. Well, well, well. The Utah Crew, otherwise known as Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard, broke out the spectral colors and dug into purple. Resulting in outbreaks of patches of purple everywhere! And thesaurus use has risen by 140% this week! So, with plenty of fresh (invigorating, crunchy…) words to look at, there’s a transcript in the archives and over here


    Just waiting for your orbs of vision to stop rolling and alight on the pixels shining forth. Or perhaps the dark gaps between the pixels? Anyway, read it!

  11. What a perfect exercise right after we got to download Way of Kings for free :D

    The Parshendi were yelling, moving, twisting. Suddenly, a figure exploded through them. Not Sadeas at all. A young man with a strong face and long, curling black hair. He carried a spear. And he was glowing.

    The Parshendi were vociferating, maneuvering, swiveling. Unforeseen, a presence burst forth amidst them. Not Sadeas by any means. A juvenile fellow, with an able-bodied countenance and lengthy, curlicue locks as dark as a crow’s feather. He bore a bayonet. And he was luminous.

    That was painful. KALADINNNNN

  12. Re-writing the first line to The Martian by Andy Weir in purple prose:

    As I gaze at the startlingly rust-red landscape before me for yet another of its non-terrestrial days, I must accept the inevitable conclusion that the likelihood of rectifying this situation is vanishingly small.

  13. Enjoy your purple Steelheart:

    I have watched upon Steelheart shed his inner red life fluid.
    It occured a decennium in the past; I had been living on this earth for eight years. My male parent and my own person were present at the Primary Harmony Bank at Adams Street. We took it upon ourselves to use the ancient street monikers, grey memories of old, of a time long begotten before the Annexation.

    I first wanted to do the Honor’s Dead-scene but someone beat me to it ;) Thanks guys, this was fun! (I did use a dictionary though. The curses of being an ESL speaker…)

  14. The purple version:
    Beneath her, the earth convulsed—the fulminations coming nearer and nearer. She contorted her body into a spherical shape to contain the pandemonium of her heartbeat. Her lungs labored to filter the grit and cinders from the atmosphere tumbling past her. And rising over the clamor of war and the threnody of her own gasps came the strident wailing of wounded men. The howls were not echoes in her mind, but suffering embodied in flesh and invested with immediate voice.

    The elegant original:
    The ground shook with an explosion, louder and closer than any had been yet. Ginger curled into a tight ball, heart pounding. Dirt rattled down. Clouds of hot dust billowed past, choking her. And over the guns and her own coughing came the hoarse screams of wounded men. The screaming was real this time, not a memory.

  15. Thankfully I had a copy of Way of Kings sitting nearby.

    Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of the Shinovar, was dressed in alabaster cloth on the day he was meant to undergo the slaying of a monarch. The bright bleached garb was a Parshendi tradition, alien to his own personal sensibilities. But he undertook his master’s requirements without complaint and did not indulge his curiosity with over-inquisitive proddings.
    He squatted in a cavernous stone chamber, backed by colossal pits of blazing flames that licked at the air with smoldering orange tongues, casting an eccentric flickering of illuminating firelight upon the revelers, causing corpulent beads of sweat to form on their dripping flesh as they writhed in the rhythmic unison of dance, drowsiness drunkenness, boisterous choruses of echoing laughter, and songs of barely audible lyrics obscured under the singer’s own thunderous clapping. Some revelers collapsed into stupors upon the well trodden stone of the chamber floor where they lay, their faces turned crimson from drink, the revelry too much for them, their bellies proving to be inferior wineskins. They looked as if they were among the dead of some great battlefield, at least until their comrades hoisted them upon their shoulders like sacks of grain, and ferried them from the feast hall to waiting beds.
    Szeth did not undulate to the deep thrumming tune of the drums, he did not partake of the richly dark sapphire wines the others swilled like oily blood, nor did he rise himself to join in the shifting mass of bodies dancing to the beat of calloused hands upon tight pulled skins. Instead, he sat solitary upon his stiff bench, a motionless servant garbed in alabaster robes.

  16. This my attempt to turn Mistborn purple:

    Pale, charred soot emitted from the celestial sphere.
    The small, inky-haired urchin Vin observed the fleecy wafers waft through the gently caressing breezes. Languid. Lackadaisical. With liberty. The flurry of ashes floated like dark frozen crystals, descending upon the coal-pigmented metropolis of Luthadel. They fluttered in indentations, swirling in the zephyrous currents and meandering in diminutive squalls over the pavements. They appeared to be so aloof. What would that be akin to?

  17. About half an hour after we had received Mrs. Harker’s telegram, there came a quiet, resolute knock at the hall door. It was just an ordinary knock, such as is given hourly by thousands of gentlemen, but it made the Professor’s heart and mine beat loudly. We looked at each other, and together moved out into the hall; we each held ready to use our various armaments—the spiritual in the left hand, the mortal in the right. Van Helsing pulled back the latch, and, holding the door half open, stood back, having both hands ready for action.

    Speaking of time, we must venture now to encapsulate our response of perhaps a singular hour, or rather one halved. The folicularly challenging entirety of this, engendering only thoughts of dank and morose natures, elapsed by monumentally minuscule moments. Certainly, Father Time was capering about our rapidly dwindling hoer-hairs, neglecting any formation of the barest iota of hopeful solace found beneath the gauzy white bandages of a hearts reliably foggy, time-dimmed recollections. Yet of what seed could this our eternal score-and-a-half of minutes stem? Of what mother had this waling, soiled, and not very charming offspring…sprung? T’was following our avid probing into dame Harker’s telegram. Our hearts’ mental meanderings had since disallowed even a quarter metric gram of coffin dust’s trade value in repose; truly, we lay about the room deepened into our blackest, onyx-hued holes, lamenting the moment in which enlightenment of the benighted, yet indisputable, yes even glaberous, contents was bestowed upon us. Following this interminable half-hour from Hades, there sounded softly a rapping upon our entrance portal, the hand-carved mahogany shivering as though a raucous salesman freshly from a John Maxwell seminar had begun brazenly hawking wares at its mothers funeral. We, however, found no such fault in the character of the knuckle induced miracles (each knock being it’s own, though of what persuasion was unfathomable as yet to us). In sooth, in other hours, and other times, and other lands, was a very respectable sort of knock One I may have given myself, on many errands of scrupulous action. This, then demonstrates the impetus the mind may take to add emotions bred of context to an innocuously average auditory affair. The Professor’s heart and mine verily thrummed. We glanced furtively one towards the other, and the other towards the one, and, finally, together like a pair of maidens expecting fearfully the joy of her beaus missive, perambulated out into the suddenly resistant air filling the hall; we each firmly grasped in sweat bedecked palms and finger our instruments of doubtful deliverance—those of celestial suggestion in the raw, untrained left hand, the customary, more plebeian in the right. Van Helsing wrenched back the latch, and, bracing his foot upon the floor, enervated the one-time-wooden space, rendering the motherless door half open. Hades’ head choir-boy stood back, his duel-wielding members quivering in ill hidden readiness.

  18. Original text, as it appears in The Well Of Ascension:

    “The army crept like a dark stain across the horizon.

    King Elend Venture stood motionless upon the Luthadel City wall, looking out at the enemy troops. Around him, ash fell from the sky in fat, lazy flakes. It wasn’t the burnt white ash that one saw in dead coals; this was a deeper, harsher black ash. The Ashmounts had beeen particularly active lately.”

    Re-written so purple, the Joker will want to wear it:

    Battalion upon battalion battle ready warriors swarmed against the backdrop of the dingy dark reddish orange orb of the rising Sun, a Sun that was itself but a suggestion through the thick haze of the Ashmount detritus that choked the skies.

    Brand-new King Elend Venture, his youthful face a marble mask which concealed wave upon wave of gut- wrenching fear, stood still as a gravemarker upon the ancient city battlements, knowing eventually even this twenty-foot thick wall of stone, which encircled the noble city of Luthadel, would eventually fail to keep the approaching mass of invaders out. Elend’s eyes swept left, right, then left again, as the approaching army sprawled wider and wider across the open plains outside the city. Peppering down from above, voluminous wafers of ash swirled in lackadaisical corkscrews, drifting steadily downward and coating everything in a thin powdery film. It wasn’t the clean, light grayish – white of coals burnt in the cheerful warmth of an open heart, but was a deeper, darker grayish-black, a black that contained all the evil of hell itself. The Ashmount, a vulgar legacy of the Lord Ruler, had been exceptionally effusive lately, as if demanding vengeance for the Lord Ruler’s recent demise.

    This was such a fun exercise! Thank you for assigning it. I can honestly say I think purple prose is a lot harder to write than clean, straightforward description. I can also say I’ve never wanted anyone to laugh at my writing the way I want people to laugh at this, because it is truly ridiculous ;)

    1. Cady, I agree… Turning prose purple was more difficult than expected (particularly since I’m a wordy sort and have to edit out excessive description in my own writing). But you did a fine job of it. ;)

      P.S. I love the word “detritus”.

  19. What better place to add purple prose than the ever-colorful Warbreaker?

    “The field of forty thousand rigid-backed soldiers, resplendently garbed in brilliant cerulean and aureate hues, standing in flawlessly collinear rows, gleaming spears raised high with sapphire tassels fluttering lackadaisically in the wind… THAT was ostentatious. The geminate line of stalwart cavalrymen atop elephantine, heavy-hoofed horses, both men and beasts draped with gilt cloth that shimmered with an iridescent luster beneath the halcyon rays of the sun. THAT was ostentatious. The massive city, so vast that contemplating it caused her mind to reel and then stagger, exhausted, to a benumbed standstill– ponderous domes and soaring spires and fancifully painted walls all competing to draw her attention, a cacophony of indecent glamour and unrestrained extravagance. THAT was ostentatious.”

    And now, so is this paragraph. ;)

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