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In Praise of Purple Prose

Updated on January 3, 2013

Welcome to the Pleasures of Purple Prose

Have you caught the "Purple Prose" bug yet? If not, you're in for a big surprise!

It's highly contagious, especially if you have a funnybone in need of a scratch.

While sticks and stones may break one's bones, health care practitioners around the world have all managed to agree on one thing -- flatulent or fetid fiction will not harm homo sapiens, although it has been reported that those who peruse a page of purple prose may suffer from a severe a case of yawning or dreary deep-musing.


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THE POSHEST PRIZE FOR PURPLE PROSE - The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a parody of prose, invites entrants to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. It is named after Victorian writer Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who opened his 1830 novel "Paul Clifford," with the much-quoted, "It was a dark and stormy nightThe phrase "It was a dark and stormy night", made famous by comic strip artist Charles M. Schulz, was originally penned by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton as the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.


Image Credit: Snoopy cartoon by Charles Schulz posted 2011-07-26 in

What's PURPLE PROSE for pity's sake? - Is it related to pink elephants?

No Virginia, scientists have concluded after many years of study that "purple prose" has precious little to do with pink elephants. What they have discovered is that it appears to be a disease afflicting predominantly pen-pushers, (particularly with a passion for writing puffed up prose), and scribes (some of whom have a habit of scrawling shaggy dog sentences on misty mirrors in the morning).

Long-winded literature-lovers would probably take exception to the characterization of this amusing art as tantamout to having to trudge through a tedious tome (akin to penal servitude where one is obliged to clean a cavernous refuse container with a simple toothbrush).

The mind becomes bored with predictability and routine. So, fanciful forays into flowery fiction often provides a welcome relief to readers who wish to pause, snooze or nap and wake up not having missed much in terms of the action.

On the other hand, "purple prose" in pulp fiction is rather popular. In fact, one might say audiences seem to enjoy the excesses of purple prose, including romance, mystery, and adventure.

Frankly, what would romance novels be without such entertaining euphemisms to describe body parts and sexual activity as "throbbing manhood", "quivering desire", or how a hunky hero "filled his paramour with the hot wet tumult of his love", while the happy hussy literally "exploded with delight".


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Does Davey Jones Dabble in Writing? - Only if it's about purple prose pirates!

David McKenzie, 55, of Federal Way, Wash., won the grand prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Fiction Contest (BLFC) is a tongue-in-cheek 'bad' writing competition that takes place annually and is sponsored by the English Department of San José State University in San Jose, California. with this:

""Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."


Image Credit: - image # - 0511-0810-1701-4052

Purple Prose Prize Winner: In the amusing adventure category - Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest - Joe Wyatt of Amarillo, Texas

""How best to pluck the exquisite Toothpick (1) of Ramses from between a pair of acrimonious vipers before the demonic Guards of Nicobar returned should have held Indy's full attention, but in the back of his mind he still wondered why all the others who had agreed to take part in his wife's holiday scavenger hunt had been assigned to find stuff like a Phillips screwdriver or blue masking tape."


(1) Toothpick: a triangular balsa wood sliver or wedge used to clean the teeth interproximally and stimulate the interdental gingival tissues

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Does Purple Prose Come In Other Colors? - Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Winner - Eric Rise, Sun Prairie, Wis. winner in the detective category

"She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida the pink ones, not the white ones except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't."

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"She plunged into a sea of platitudes, and with the powerful breaststroke of a channel swimmer, made her confident way towards the white cliffs of the obvious."


-- W. Somerset Maugham --

PURPLE PROSE PARAMOUR - Awful Abuse of the Amorous Arts - 2008 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Winner (Purple Prose Category) - Garrison Spik, Washington, DC

"Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped 'Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J.' "


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"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."

-- Robert Heinlein --

"Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs."

-- Christopher Hampton --

"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."

-- Jerry Seinfeld --

Purple Prose Books n' Things

Soulsearchers and Company Number 32 (Riders of the Purple Prose)
Soulsearchers and Company Number 32 (Riders of the Purple Prose)

For those who need to know how to find a purple cow and how to ride purple prose for all it's worth!

The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose: From William Caxton to P. G. Wodehouse: A Conducted Tour Reissue (Oxford Books of Prose)
The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose: From William Caxton to P. G. Wodehouse: A Conducted Tour Reissue (Oxford Books of Prose)

Funnybone fiction lovers will appreciate this little gem -- a great source of laughable long-winded literature!

Warning: When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
Warning: When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple

A colorful attitude to life includes purple, doing odd things, and finding excuses to have oodles of laughter!

Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose

Wicked word-weavers will love this little gem to guide them wonderful ways to spice up their dreary ditties.

The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed
The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

Those with a passion for punctuation and purple prose and grammar gurus who appreciate a giggle or two will love this treasury of titillation from the hand of Karen Elizabeth Gordon.


Merry Mythmas To All You Purple Prosers!

Image Credit: - 4943549

'Twas a dark and stormy night when Santa set out on his trek around the globe, but being a merry man in 2010 was a just tad difficult during the temporary interruption of economic expansion and the gaping hole in the capitalistic patriarchal hegemonic discourse proffered by politically-correct politicians and pundits, or more particularly, since the bank had foreclosed on his North Pole property (leaving him homeless and destitute), a naughty elf was caught with his hand in the cookie jar (which drove the normally holly jolly man to drink) while Mrs. Claus was fingered for money-laundering (which accounts for why this sour-puss soul has to wear this godforesaken moth-eaten old suit) not to mention the fact that Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed Reindeer was detained on a security warrant at a US border crossing for refusing to submit to a mandatory pat-down (which means he has to hoof around with a frigging sack on his back) and that is why this chronologically-gifted, generously-proportioned, melanin-impoverished male with white whiskers (who is waiting to be shocked and awed by yet another round of "quantitative easing") and has no blasted bucket-list if you really must know!

Feedback from Purple Prose People - Are you a lover of long-winded literature?

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