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Descriptions: Purple vs. Beige Prose and Scenery

clevergirlhelps:

This being Part 2 of my description showcase. Part 1 (the Basics) can be found here.

I see purple and beige prose mostly in descriptions of scenery, so I’m going to describe the picture of this mountain next to the lake (x).

Beige Prose

Beige prose is the bare-bones description of something. It doesn’t use a lot of adjectives, the adjectives used are basic, and the sentence structure is fairly simple. This is a beige prose description:

The mountain rose high over the still lake. The mountain was grey with green trees growing on it. Its colors were reflected in the lake. Birds flew over the lake. The morning sunlight lit the mountain’s side like a lamp, but did not touch the water. The lake water was mostly blue. The shores were rocky.

Cons of beige prose:

  • Dullness – The above sentence is a very boring read. It doesn’t have any variety whatsoever. It tells you what happens and that’s about it.
  • Vagueness – “Birds flew over the lake”; what birds? “Green trees”; what kinds of trees? There are also twenty thousand different shades of blue that could pass as lake water blue. Are we talking Marine Blue, Dark Royal Blue, or Midnight Navy? Also, if the lake is mostly blue, what other colors are in it?

Pros of beige prose:

  • Understandable – beige prose tells it like it is. You know that there is a lake with a rocky shore adjacent to a mountain with trees and that’s all you really need to picture the scene.
  • Concise – It’s 56 words long and conveys the full picture of the lake and the mountain. You can’t get much more concise than that.

Purple Prose

Purple prose is at the other end of the scale as beige prose. Purple prose is characterized by long, complex sentences, and the liberal usage of polysyllabic adjectives.

The mountain clawed upward like an unctuous parvenu, reaching towards the dove grey sky with its proud peak. Its sheer face bare save for where the gentleness of slope allowed lustrous evergreens to take root in the meager soil. The mountain was a palimpsest of eons of erosion, seasons, and other such orthographical changes. Pale white sunlight bathed the mountainside where the clouds allowed it, giving the mountain an air of mystical beauty. Reflecting the entirety of this glorious scene was the lake yawning at the mountain’s feet. The sapphire water was still in the biting, frigid morning air, the only movement on its surface coming from the reflections of robins as they flitted over it, singing their melodious aubades. Perhaps the only other quantifiable movement was at its rocky shores, where the water gently stroked at the boulders scattered helter-skelter like a child’s toys.

I need to go wash my hands.

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It’s Not Cheating to Use Writing Tips and Tools

daphodillsgarden:

It’s not cheating to learn from other writers. Take advantage of the experience of writers and use their tips and writing techniques for your own stories.

via It’s Not Cheating to Use Writing Tips and Tools.

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Anonymous: What are some things you think a writer should keep in mind before beginning revisions on their manuscript? 

queryquagmire:

This is a great question! I’m surprised nobody has asked it yet.

Revision is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of courage, chutspah, and balls/ovaries of solid granite to rip something to shreds after you slaved over it for months. But it is a necessary part of the writing process and to skip it is to say good-bye to your dreams of publication. Why?

Because first drafts blow.

Seriously. There is no such thing as a perfect first draft. It is a mythical creature native to the magical land of Wishfulthinkia. I don’t care if your name is Virginia Woolf and you can spout better prose in your sleep while wearing a mouth retainer than most authors will write in their lifetime. Your first drafts still suck.

And that’s why we revise. So stop arguing with me and just do it. Now, without further ado, here are some things I think writers should keep in mind before they dive into their revisions:

  1. No change is permanent. You can try a particular scene nine different ways before deciding on which way works best. You can change a character as many times as you want and eventually go back to the first iteration. So if you’re terrified that something new will actually be worse than what you had in the first place, fear not. You are not locked into any changes you make. You have no excuse not to try something crazy or experimental.
  2. No one is reading over your shoulder. It’s just you and the words on the page. So don’t be afraid or embarrassed to try something freaky. If it doesn’t work out, no one has to know it happened. No one has to know that you named a character “Dr. Sexy” for 78 pages before you picked a name for him. 
  3. Save each draft as a separate document. Not only is it smart to make back-ups, but if you delete something that you end up wanting to keep, you will have only to go back and pluck it from an earlier draft. Some authors even start writing the next draft from scratch, rather than copying and pasting from the original.
  4. Join a workshop/get a writing buddy/hire an editor. Outside feedback is essential to the writing process. If you’re writing in a vacuum, you will have no idea if your story actually works for an audience, or if it’s just an echo chamber of stuff you like. Writing buddies will also help identify flaws that you never noticed because after reading your own work seventeen times, it starts to look like ancient Aramaic. Don’t make the mistake of hiding away in your basement for draft after private draft. Get feedback after every draft, or even after every chapter of a single draft.
  5. Don’t ignore feedback just because you don’t like it. In fact, if you recoil in horror at a particular bit of advice, that’s a sign that you should probably examine it further. Question why you react to certain advice. And if you find that you only accept advice that sounds nice, well then you’re a spineless coward who should have her word processor taken away.
  6. Work on a schedule. Writing and revising is work. Act like it. Schedule regular breaks and commit to set time periods in which you will work on your writing. Not only will this make you more serious about the revision process, it’ll help you avoid needless procrastination. 
  7. "Kill your darlings." If you’ve ever read a single blog or book about the art of writing, you’ve heard this one. For the uninitiated: it means you need to be willing to sacrifice parts of the story that you love or that you worked really hard on in order to benefit the story as a whole. Really like that random flashback you wrote about Dr. Sexy’s time in med school, but it doesn’t actually provide any insight into the character or further the plot of the book? Cut it. Just love that plucky sidekick who is actually pretty useless and only serves to muck up already dense conversations? Give ‘em the axe. Then forget about them. Your story will be better for it.
  8. There’s no such thing as “perfect,” only “good enough.” You’re never going to get it exactly right. That way lies madness. But you can get close. And that’s what you should be shooting for. If you embrace perfectionism, you’re never going to get the damn thing in the hands of a publishing house. You’ll just be revising till the day you die.
  9. There is a difference between revising and copyediting and you should not do them at the same time. I know it’s hard to ignore typos in your work. You want to correct them as soon as you come upon them. To resist is painful. But you know what? Don’t. The process of editing naturally flows from the macro to the micro. Start with the big-picture editing: rewriting scenes, adding characters, revising whole conversations, changing the ending. Then work your way steadily down to the nit-picky edits: consistency of character names, making sure you’ve got your timeline straight, making sure your geography makes a lick of sense. Next work on your prose: making it sound pretty and poetic, using your writing tone to reflect the mood of a particular scene. Then and only then can you start editing for spelling, grammar, and syntax. If you start out by copyediting you’ll be wasting time in two ways: 1) You’ll be spending extra time reading line by line to catch errors that you could spend reworking the meat of the story, and 2) You run the risk of perfectly editing a chapter only to realize you need to rewrite 90% of it. So resist the urge to copyedit when you start revising.
  10. "But that’s how it happened in real life"/"But that’s how I first imagined it" is no excuse for shitty writing. The truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense. So if the plot seems far-fetched, or if it strains belief, or if your readers say it just doesn’t make any fucking sense, don’t be afraid to change it. In fact, you must change it. I don’t care how sentimentally attached you are to the original version. The exception to this rule is of course nonfiction, in which you should never deviate from the facts because that is called lying.

I now open it up to the whole class: what do you guys keep in mind before you start revising your manuscripts? How do you prepare for the arduous task? 

~QQ


Anonymous: you are so fucking stupid and i actually don't think you're qualified to be preaching about whether or not anyone should include content like that in their fiction. don't fucking police people you piece of shit 

okay 

1) ur ableist as hell

and

2) dont fucking use rape in fiction as a trivial plot device its called being a decent fucking person

and like no im not qualified?? im still a student in high school but it doesnt take someone with a university degree to know that rape isnt something to be trivialised 

rape can be included in literature especially as a coping mechanism. like the inclusion of rape and the stories of rape survivors in literature is so important because it can help the healing process and ppl know that its not just them going through that experience, etc

so yeah.

bye.

Everyone, please note, I was agreeing with girldwarf.

I should have explained myself better and that entire misunderstanding was entirely my fault. 


Anonymous: I just saw your response to the question "Why is it that using rape as a backstory or plot device for female characters is bad?" and I have an answer for you. It's fucking fascinating to write and read! The thoughts that go through their heads, how their perception of the world shifts afterward, and how it continues to shift as they "recover" and stop it from taking over their lives. I don't mean to shit on your opinion but can you really say that it isn't interesting? 

girldwarf:

writersdoitbetter:

girldwarf:

askaradfem:

Ew. Rape isn’t “fascinating”, it’s one of the most horrible things someone can go through. To use it as a plot device is offensive.

- Pi

Reading and writing about rape in an authentic, deep way has helped me a lot.

Sometimes, though, I feel sick thinking about someone reading healing material like that and thinking detachedly, “fascinating, fascinating.”

So I kinda just had my worst fear confirmed. But writing and reading rape has had some value for me, too. (Although… stuff too graphic or centered on the rapist is quite literally material for bonfires.)

Okay, seriously. Never use rape as a plot device. I shouldn’t even have to give you a reason but here’s one for you: it’s goddamn condescending and it trivialises the god-awful experience that is rape.

It’s not “fascinating”. Don’t use rape as a plot device.

If this isn’t directed at me, carry on. If it is? lol fuck you to hell

You missed the point by 900 and you’re flat wrong to tell me how to deal, and I for one am fucking glad rape storylines exist because they console that fragile part of myself. I mean sincere, complex story archs, though, not weak shit. there is rampant exploitation of that struggle for weak attempts at adding hollow depth to a boring female character writers are too lazy to write about beyond a sexist trope and flimsy male-centered backstory. But that isn’t what I said was the healing content. I specified authentic stuff.

So back the fuck up.

No, this wasn’t directed at you at all. I’m sorry the way I worded it was confusing and this falls entirely on me.

I was trying to referring to my followers since this is a writing advice blog and I should have made that more clear.

In fact, I agree with you 100% and in the tags voiced that I agreed with you. Stories involving rape as the plot can be very therapeutic and healing. I just didn’t explain it well.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t word this better and this misunderstanding occurred. 


Anonymous: I just saw your response to the question "Why is it that using rape as a backstory or plot device for female characters is bad?" and I have an answer for you. It's fucking fascinating to write and read! The thoughts that go through their heads, how their perception of the world shifts afterward, and how it continues to shift as they "recover" and stop it from taking over their lives. I don't mean to shit on your opinion but can you really say that it isn't interesting? 

girldwarf:

askaradfem:

Ew. Rape isn’t “fascinating”, it’s one of the most horrible things someone can go through. To use it as a plot device is offensive.

- Pi

Reading and writing about rape in an authentic, deep way has helped me a lot.

Sometimes, though, I feel sick thinking about someone reading healing material like that and thinking detachedly, “fascinating, fascinating.”

So I kinda just had my worst fear confirmed. But writing and reading rape has had some value for me, too. (Although… stuff too graphic or centered on the rapist is quite literally material for bonfires.)

Okay, seriously. Never use rape as a plot device. I shouldn’t even have to give you a reason but here’s one for you: it’s goddamn condescending and it trivialises the god-awful experience that is rape.

It’s not “fascinating”. Don’t use rape as a plot device.

The Effects of Alcohol and Alcoholism Withdrawal

midnightreference:

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Blackouts
  • Flushed appearance
  • Intense moods
  • Lack of coordination and slower reflexes
  • Reduced concentration

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Brain damage
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency
  • Ulcers
  • Mouth/throat cancer
  • Malnutrition
  • Concentration & memory problems

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Within 2-6 hours of the last drink
    • Insomnia
    • Anxiety
    • Headache
    • Reduced appetite
    • Tremors
    • Stomachache
    • Paleness
    • Clammy skin
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Dilated pupils
    • Fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Depression
    • Rapid emotional changes
  • Within 12-24 hours
    • Some experience alcoholic hallucinosis, which includes visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations that normally end within 48 hours
    • Most are aware that the hallucinations aren’t real
  • Within 24-48 hours
    • Withdrawal seizures may occur
    • Risk is increased after multiple detoxifications
  • Within 48-72 hours
    • DTs (delirium tremens) may occur
    • DTs usually peak at 5 days
    • Disorientation
    • Confusion
    • Anxiety
    • Seizures
    • High blood pressure
    • Severe tremors
    • Fever
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Sweating
    • Hallucinations indistinguishable from reality

Sources:

http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/withdraw/a/aa030307a.htm

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CHIQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.unmc.edu%2Ffamilymed%2Fdocs%2FAlcohol_Withdrawal.ppt&ei=qaZ6UvDyGsrPsASbgYFg&usg=AFQjCNFvG9Oy1kEM14tOtqBqlqFTd18TbQ&sig2=F28HRYeGeq8j5K01n0eOpw&bvm=bv.55980276,d.cWc

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/alcohol-abuse/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments?page=1

http://www.dassa.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=122

http://www.drinkwise.org.au/you-alcohol/alcohol-facts/short-term-harm/

http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/short-term-long-term-effects.html

Body Language in writing

writedemon:

How many times has someone rammed the phrase “Show, don’t tell” down your throat without actually offering you any help as to how you could do that?

It must have happened to me about eight. million. times. Literally.

Ok so not literally… but the point stands.

Showing, rather than telling, is quite easy in first person; all you have to do is relay information and facts e.g

Rather than saying

"I was ill. I felt so sick."

You say

"My head was thumping and, as I tried to concentrate on the lecture, a bead of cold sweat worked its way down my back. I suppressed a cough, cracking my dry, itchy throat painfully."

However in third person it can be more difficult, mainly because the reader has no direct access to the characters thoughts and innermost feelings. It can be done, though.

Body language is very important to this and can really help to make a point well. In the most basic sense it gives your character life as, honestly, no one stays still as a mannequin through a whole conversation. Or, if they do, its a suspicious way of acting and should be noted. Of course it can also say alot more about your character than they’d like!

The example of Anxiety;

Anxiety, on a personal level (that is to say on the inside), causes feelings of sickness, nervousness, even fear in extreme cases but, while anxiety attacks are pretty obvious, the physical symptoms can be surprisingly subtle and complex. 

The first this to remember is peoples ‘tells’ will show something about them too: a young, vain man might smooth his hair, check for dirt under his nails etc. A woman might repeatedly check her make-up, smooth her dress and apply lipgloss/stick while someone who’s seen violence and known ambushes (a soldier or police officer, for example) might take to scrutinizing those around them.

for example;

No- 

"The anxiety was crippling him."

Yes-

"The air was oppressive and, as Hunters stomach churned, it pressed on him; crushing his shaking throat beneath the boot of reality. He was trapped. Trapped in here with all these staring goons…"

The example of a liar;

When someone is lying they will, if they’re smart, try their hardest to act normally though the result will, usually, appear contrived. Unless they have no moral compass or are trained to lie with skill (or have a lot of practice).

No-

" ‘Of course I love you.’ She lied smoothly."

Yes-

"She blinked quickly, eyes darting from his face to her hands, 

'Of course I love you, Don….” She smiled and laughed, a high, panicked sound, 'How could you doubt me?'”

The example of sexual arousal;

Hard nipples or tingling nether regions are not body language. Keep in mind that, ideally, your reader should know nothing, or little, more than what characters do. When people are aroused their pupils dilate, their heart rate and body heat rises: this is universal but the way they display this changes from person to person. Some may lean forward, lick their lips, touch their neck or hair, push their chest out (women), splay their legs (men) but it all says something!

No-

"Gary wanted him so badly; Rob was perfect. Sexy as hell and confident too."

Yes- 

"Gary swallowed and let his eyes flicked quickly over Robs lips and face; he was gorgeous but it was more than that. He leaned in and smiled as he recited a story about a childhood dog; it was the way he spoke and smiled. Gary rubbed his lips and squirmed in his seat a little; it was the way he flexed his hands and bit his lips.”

Obviously such examples are not comprehensive but they give an idea of how to move forward. Perhaps a useful thing to do, as a starting point, is to ask 

'what do I do when I feel like this/do this?'  

Then build upon your findings from there. Alternatively you can study those closest to you; watch what they do with their limbs and face when they say certain things.