1. Kael
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    Kael Member

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    Flowery writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kael, May 2, 2012.

    Hello forum,

    I have seen many written pieces, by friends and strangers, and sometimes I see a couple people say their writing is "flowery" with some of those pieces. At first, I did not know what they had meant, and then I asked them if they could check my writing for this "flowery" trait. It came back with "sometimes, you write very flowery!" When I asked them what it had meant, they said it was hard to describe. One man, and the only one to do so, said it is when you use too many adjectives or give too much descriptive detail at once.

    So my question is, what is flowery writing and how can I avoid it without losing descriptive detail too much? Thank you all for your time!

    Kael,
     
  2. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    I would have to agree that it is namely an over-done piece of description. What I have learned so far from my mentor, after dealing with many sentences that she told me were flowery and, to quote her verbatim, "purple prosey gobbley gook", is that it is the cheap way to write a description.

    When one writes, 'flowery', even if done on accident, more often then not, the focus of the sentence was primarily on writing something pretty or beautiful. Whether the sentence is about a 'majestic purple sunset glamorously sliding below the horizon', or a 'slumbeing fire within the writer himself, that only fiercely ignites when he places pen to page', does not matter. It is all the same. I have learned that this is not the focus on writing. Writing is about skill and the best way to convey a message in the clearest way possible, using word choice and devices when they are best suited for the message. Writing is about clarity. That is the primary focus. When you focus on clarity, the beauty becomes a result.

    I would suggest staying as far away from it as possible. It cheapens your message and shows the reader you are more worried about impressing them, then telling a story. Get to the point, and don't dilute your message with all the pristine water your brain thinks sounds, looks, and tastes good.

    Hope this helps.

    -Ghost
     
  3. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Flowery is something that's overly descriptive. As in too many adjectives/adverbs. It used to be the biggest thing in the past but seems to have fallen out of trend lately, which is a good thing because damn, flowery writing is annoying. I usually just skim over the flowery parts.
     
  4. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I agree with GoldenGhost - flowery/florid/purple prosey writing is NOT just an over-abundance of adjectives or extensive description. It is when that becomes the PRIMARY FOCUS of the writing, i.e. the language used to convey the image becomes more important than the image, so as to completely obscure the image from view.

    It is usually a sign that a writer is trying to flex their poetic muscles, show off their vocabularly or do something consciously 'literary', but most of the time it comes across as very amateurish. Many inexperienced writers think that because literary prose is difficult to understand, any prose that is difficult to understand is therefore literary. I'm afraid this is a false syllogism...

    As GG said, just convey your meaning in as simple, clear and concise prose as possible. True clarity of meaning is infinitely more beautiful than something complicated and obscure.
     
  5. pet.
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    pet. Senior Member

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    Did you really just say "True clarity of meaning is infinitely more beautiful than something complicated and obscure" unironically?

    To the OP, flowery: 'Full of ornate or grandiloquent expressions; highly embellished'. Try not to listen to anyone who makes sweeping generalisations about what is 'better' in writing - instead, consider the writing you like most, and think about how complex the writing is. There are plenty of very good writers who use very flowery language (Mervyn Peake comes to mind), so if flowery is to your taste, go ahead and write it. Flowery might not be fashionable at the moment, but don't let that stop you.
     
  6. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Although I don't personally prefer flowery writing, not all of it is bad. What I mean is there are several types of writing, niches that love that style. I have a friend who writes flowery but she has a following and there are certain sections of the book store that I think needs purple carpet but they have to sell some of those books or they wouldn't keep stocking them.
     
  7. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    Oh! That's what it is!

    I always thought it was writing that is always really sickly/sweet and generally boring because of this. Guess I was wrong though... I quite like description though, just not too much of it.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Flowery description has its place. In an otherwise tight piece of writing, a flowery description can convey a sense that the speaker is blown away by what he or see is seeing. This is particularly true in a character-driven narration, where the narrator is an identifiable participant or observer in the story.

    When flowery description is excessive, it is lableled "purple prose." Flowery does not necessarily identify excess, but purple prose does - excess is part of the definition of the term.
     
  9. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Yes. I found nothing obscure or complicated about that sentence. Its meaning was clear. You obviously followed it. Would you prefer I deleted the word 'infinitely'?
     
  10. Frusciante
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    I see this with everyone who follows their story with "this is one of my first". Not to say it's a purely amateur thing- like others said it works very well in certain situations. However, when you indulge in adding several adjectives too much, the flow of the story takes a back-seat to your wording, and that can be good or bad depending on what you're trying to accomplish.
     
  11. Kael
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    Oh wow! Thanks for all the replies guys. :)

    So basically, if I understood correctly, it is when it takes away from writing and surrounding text, aka, the "focus"?
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    When you see words like "over-described" remember that you are dealing with subjective opinions. Some people like to read works that include a lot of description. If it is well done, there is nothing inherently wrong with it. Wordy writing has its place, and can be brilliantly done. For every fan of Hemingway, there is a fan of Nabokov lurking around (and Nabokov was better, the being with :) ).

    I agree with Cogito in the distinction between "flowery" and "purple prose." You'll see people who label anything that is flower or heavy on description as "purple prose," but that is an inaccurate use of the term in my view.
     
  13. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    Flowery writing is when you use 50 words to describe the exact same details as you could in 5 words.

    For instance: "Her eyes were the colour of a thousand oceans all running in circles, glistening with sunlight and promise. Their beauty unsurpassed even by the lilies of the field, the stars of the sky, the laughter of children. They watched with perception, discerning between slithers of light and the matters of the heart, an endless mirror of love and unsurpassing eloquence."

    Could be: "Her eyes were blue."

    Or better yet, don't describe the eyes at all, everyone knows what they look like (except blind people). It's writing for the sake of writing, to show off your vocabulary without actually adding anything to detail, plot or character.
     
  14. Kael
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    Oh, I see now! Certainly makes far more sense than what I thought it meant. Thank you guys. :)

    And Steerpike, yes. I see and know a lot of people who describe pieces with a bit of wordy descriptions to large amounts of descriptions as "purple prosey" and or "flowery writing", even if it varies in detail etc etc.
     
  15. vashogun
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    I've always interpreted flowery writing to have less to do with the number of words and more to do with the quality of the word choices. Often times though they go hand in hand. People who use a fifty cent word where a dime will do I interpret as trying to be flowery. There is a beginners mindset that you need to not only have a massive vocabulary but you have to prove that you have one to write. Don't mistake me, you need a solid vocabulary and the skills to retool your wording I think when it falls short. But you can tell pretty easily when someone is clearly writing not to be understood, but to prove how smart they are. Just remember brevity is the soul of wit, and Struck's rule of omitting unnecessary words, and I think this is easy to avoid.
     
  16. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    Hemingway really did a number on American prose, now didn't he?

    If you're not good at it, your attempts to elevate your prose are probably going to suck more than your attempts at simple, constrained writing. That doesn't mean the whole thing should be dismissed out of hand.
     
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  17. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    A very good point... sometimes the distinction between 'unnecessarily wordy' and 'beautifully lyrical' prose is simply talent.

    Talent trumps every single rule in the book.
     
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  18. Ventis
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    I always prefered Marquez and poetic style to Hemingway and minimalist style. For me, flowery wiriting is a failed attempt at poetic writing - but no reason for the author to stop trying. There is no 'one correct style' of writing, and there's nothing bad in poetic writing, playing with the language, choosing less ordinary words and expressions. Or writing literary fiction.

    Ask those people to be specific, to show you exactly what passages are 'flowery' and why they think it's overdone. Then carefully think about it - but also how you feel about the passage. I know quite few people who start shouting 'flowery writing' or 'purple prose' at every bit of description, especially if they spot an adjective, adverb, or a metaphor. In such case, it's best to learn to ignore it. But it might be that the critique is justified, and that it is exaggerated, with too many metaphors, similes, adjectives etc. all in one paragraph. When there are too many, these things lose any effect and sound only ridiculous.
     
  19. vashogun
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    vashogun New Member

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    I agree. I think my point of reference is simply in the intent. What am I trying to do? Pretty up my writing? Or am I trying to write for my audience to understand and "feel" the scene? The latter is the "correct" way for me. Sometimes writing poetically is what is necessary for the reader to feel whats going on. If I am doing it though simply to prove I can, than I, personally, am doing it wrong.
     

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