This is my fourth week exploring a writing principle from The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke. The focus this week is on being an invisible novelist. Gerke’s issue which he calls “purple paragraphs” is rooted in whether or not an author should get outside the mind and action of the characters and add some of their own illustrious language to their story. For most of his writing life Gerke was strongly against the use of purple prose, but it wasn’t until he saw it done correctly that he began to open up more to the invisible novelist idea.
This type of writing takes fiction into the literary fiction genre. Many readers dislike this genre. It can be hard to read and sometimes the page-long details about the color of the sky can be boring for a reader who is used to action-packed plot lines. Gerke even goes so far as to say he gets rather annoyed at authors who use this practice because it often feels like they are tooting their own horn as opposed to letting the story, characters, setting, etc. speak for themselves.
But it is important to remember that each reader is drawn to different things. If you read you are well aware of this. Books that you have absolutely loved others can’t stand. Or maybe you’ve picked up a recommendation from a friend only to abandon the book later. We all have different tastes. And while a majority of readers are drawn to a solid plot filled with multiple conflicts and adventure others are prefer books with purple prose and painted paragraphs. Those readers are few and far between in this day and age, but they are still out there.
My Current Project…
Okay, I’ll admit it. I loathe purple prose. To be honest, I took a rather long reading hiatus in high school because I was forced to read literary fiction after literary fiction by my English teachers. I struggled through each book. Not because I didn’t understand them, but because they were boring. I’m not a Whitman lover. I can’t stand Fitzgerald. And I know it may get me fired as a high school English teacher, but I don’t even enjoy poetry at all. It just isn’t my personality.
I’m the teacher who pushes for young adult literature in the classroom. I know that some people really do enjoy literary fiction so as a class we do read some of those novels together, but from experience I know that being forced to only read literary fiction is a fast way to kill a reader’s passion. I didn’t begin to flourish as a reader until I was free to make my own choices. And those choices have very rarely included literary fiction.
When it comes to my book I’m writing you can guess it-there isn’t any purple prose. To me, it wouldn’t feel right. If I skip through the purple prose as a reader why would I choose to write it?
Writers do their best when they are ascribing to their own tastes. So I’ll stick with what I like.