Originally posted April 15, 2007 on www.ButterscotchMartiniGirls.com
The subject tonight is purple prose in writing.
It’s late and I’m a bit brain dead, so I turned on the TV, and found one of my favorite high school movies. Okay, not from when I was in high school…lol…but about high school–10 Things I Hate About You with Julie Stiles and Heath Ledger. It’s one of those fun, date the girl for money and then fall for her types of movies. Anyway, the guidance counselor in the movie is writing a romance novel rife with purple prose in between her counseling sessions, and often during…lol.
My favorite line is when Heath Ledger gets sent to her office because he exposed himself in the cafeteria. He tells her he was just playing a joke on the lunch lady, and it was actually a bratwurst. So, the guidance counselor said, “Hmm, optimistic, aren’t we?” as she glances down at his crotch…rofl! 🙂 Speaking personally, I wouldn’t mind checking out Heath Ledger’s “bratwurst”…lol. But I digress. Anyway – then she goes back to her computer and writes in “his throbbing bratwurst” into her story…lol.
There are several who poke fun at the romance industry for the purple prose of the past, but I for one appreciate how nimble our genre has been to change with the times. At one time phrases such as “cloistered cock,” “throbbing manhood,” and “heaving bosoms” all had their place between the pages of a romance novel. And people bought them, read them, enjoyed them and lived vicariously through characters who struggled and overcame to find their own happily ever after.
So what’s changed today? Definitely the verbiage we use. But if it wasn’t for those pioneers who trailblazed the industry before us, we wouldn’t have cliches or purple prose. It makes me smile to speculate what “new fresh verbiage” I’m using in books today that will be considered cliche or purple prose in twenty years, or even less. 🙂 And while I didn’t really enjoy reading the same romance novels that my mother did, I do recognize that romance has grown, changed and evolved with the times. It’s a great slice of society and civilization–a point in time study, as one of my college professors used to say.
Today, our heroines are strong women for the most part, some even kick ass, which definitely reflects the times we live in. Women have more power in our society, more independence and more clout. Their status is growing and our heroines reflect that. I know in my own books I have very strong heroes, strong enough that they are good match for my heroines – but in the end, my heroines end up saving themselves. They don’t wait around for the knight in shining armor, although they appreciate him as a helpmate and an equal.
So the next time you see or hear someone spoofing on romance or citing purple prose and making fun of it – just remember that the women who penned these now overused gems were the trailblazers of their time. So, while I can’t read a novel with purple prose without chuckling, I don’t judge too harshly, because with luck, someone will be chuckling over mine in a generation or two because I happened to blaze a trail for them to follow in our ever changing genre.
So here’s to all those brave women who came before me. I’m raising a butterscotch martini to all of you!