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  1. Yariel

    Yariel Banned

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    Why do people write their novels poetically?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Yariel, May 18, 2017 at 3:33 AM.

    For example

    Jonathan glared at the poster with pride, as if a phoenix revealed its glorious fiery body. (Shaking My head...)


    I find it very stupid to be honest.
     
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  2. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Active Member

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    Well I for one find it more interesting than 'Johnathan glared at the poster with pride, as something worthy to be proud of'. Just kind of flat and dull. You can get over-done, like your example, but well-written poetic turns of phrase are enjoyable. I have fun with the different metaphors/similes my characters would use according to their life experiences.
     
  3. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm kind of in @Yariel's camp on this one, from a personal perspective ...although not entirely. Every now and again an author comes along whose poetry in prose doesn't annoy me. (Annie Proulx, as an example.) But, in general, if I want to read poetry, I'll read poetry.

    I don't enjoy being yanked out of a story every few paragraphs to goggle at an overly clever turn of phrase. I like the author to be invisible. That doesn't mean they shouldn't choose their words carefully, and avoid clichés and flatness. There is a wide difference between a phoenix revealing its glorious fiery body and something worthy to be proud of. The first seems overblown and silly, the second is flat and clunky. Surely the author could create imagery that's less florid and more potent.

    However, there are people who dearly love the poetic turn of phrase. It's just one of those things that makes me say ...do whatever works. For you as a writer, and for your readership.
     
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  4. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Active Member

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    TBH, this happens to me when I'm not reading. My family has a certain way of putting things ('we are four saltines and one mozzarella cheezit' was today's winner) so it doesn't bother me too bad. Honestly I think it happens more when I'm talking than reading.

    I am not fond of overblown, like I said before. There's the 'tryhard' camp which is just. . . no. Don't force it. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn't, let it go. I'm for the 'middle ground'. Pretty, but not overblown. For example, 'Johnathan stared at his the fruits of his labor with pride; a poster for the school play'. (Maybe not the best example, it's pretty late and I'm kinda tired, but you get the point, right?)
     
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  5. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Contributing Member

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    Yeahhh, I might've wanted a more subtle image. But to answer your question, the writer behind the tired, dying eyes may have some clouds of wander delightfully obscuring their good judgment.
     
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  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Why?
    To emulate a writer they admire.
    Because they enjoy playing with language.
    Because they want to sound deep and meaningful and clever.
    Because they dream of literary awards.
    Because they think that's what good writing is.

    And probably a million other reasons.

    I'm with @jannert in that I don't generally enjoy purple prose, with a few exceptions. I can't deal with most people's purpleness, but I can't get enough of Nabokov's.
     
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  7. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is why I have an ok tolerance for purpley prose. I have to admire the effort, the very least. :D

    I enjoy metaphors and similes, but the OP's example is over-the-top for me as well. If we talk about authors who write "poetic" language, Toni Morrison and Yvonne Vera are two of my favorites. When I read Morrison's Jazz in English as 16yo, I was both amazed and confused (and slightly frustrated when I had to write an analysis of it). It was a fun experience. :D
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Everybody keeps talking about Nabokov, and I've never read him! I must do that at some point.
     
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  9. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Lolita is fantastic. I mean, obviously it's also upsetting because of the subject matter... but fantastic all the same.
     
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  10. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, please do! I agree with @Tenderiser, Lolita is a great book. Whenever someone's like "hmph Lolita is over rated, there are other books you know hmph hmph", I'll just go la-la-la. :bigtongue:
     
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  11. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributing Member

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    Ha! So this is purple prose, the part about the phoenix? I had read the term before and had no idea what people were talking about.

    I'd say this is all a matter of personal taste. One man's purple prose can be another man's poetic. Personally, I like poetic. Not poetic enough and I call it bare and dry.
     
  12. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributing Member

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    What's so upsetting about the subject matter?
    Lolita isn't an erotic story, in fact most of it is flat out boring. It is however really well written.
     
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  13. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because not everyone finds it stupid.
    For me, well done 'flowery' writing is much more effective than well done 'normal' writing.

    Hemmingway makes me weep.
     
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  14. SethLoki

    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    That's the crux @NiallRoach 'well done'. I don't know the precise reason the sentiment towards purple prose is so negative nowadays. My take is that there's a lot out there that's fist-gnawingly bad; the lesser-practiced efforts of the hopeful and the aspirant, lost in delusion and pushing, too early, their stuff before the unwitting/un-wanting reader. And so it gets read, dismissed, derided even, and attitudes are compounded. For me a writer should earn their 'poetic licence' and from thereon they'd know how to be measured with the administration of what's florid, and as equally measured in that—the use of adverb/adjective and metaphor.

    I'm a fanatic of the flowery—I seek it out. But I like it to stand out also. Climactic sequences, heavy (character) introspection, and setting up big scenery all deserve it.
     
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  15. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributing Member

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    I love poetic prose, everything from the King James Version of the Bible to Fitzgerald and Hemmingway. Well done poetic prose can connect to a reader on so many levels that the mind, body and soul each read the same sentence a little differently. To me, badly written poetic prose can be described as the 'the storm and fury' that is shouting to itself in the center of the room while well written poetic prose is the 'still small voice' that is whispering to someone off in the corner.
    It doesn't matter if its poetic or not, isn't that a trait of good writing when it connects to the reader?
    Godspeed!
     
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  16. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Something Wicked this Way Comes. Contributor

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    I think it is a style choice that works for most genres/subgenres.

    Though when I think about, it really can ruin Erotica. Although,
    there is no 'best way' of writing it to begin with.
    And a bit too on the nose in the flowery lingo dept. at times.

    (Kinda sad when you are trying to keep it fun and exciting,
    only to come off as one tending a flower bed in yard.) :p

    Final thought is, you never know if it will work out or not,
    until you get some feed back. I have read purple prose that
    work well, and others that just wilted.
     
  17. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributing Member

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    He has a very earthy wit... the fact that he disliked Jane Austen, means he's okay in my book.:)
     
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  18. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributing Member

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    I like Jane Austen. Obviously, the American 'Red State vs Blue State' phenomenon is only the tip of an ice berg.
     
  19. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I like poetry. And I appreciate the spectrum - from unicorn of our skies - to the airplane. But I think you've chosen the wrong battleground. Real beef is with monsters dribbling a million words of had and was and never getting to the point or saying anything and sometimes they are paid. 'Had' is the particular offender at the moment, say it once and be bold, writer, I say, but was was...the arrogance gets me sobbing into my special hankie. Not to say I haven't offended, semi-colon, or in the end a colon or dash-it all the way through to submission. No, thank you he says, obviously. And I was reading an anthology, just this week, can you believe the first story in the anthology contained 'tendrils,' everywhere in CW if it's not tendrils it's marionette, I've said it before.
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I quite like Jane Austen, but I'm a history buff, and I like that she wrote about her time. In that sense, she was a very modern novelist. She wasn't creating some wildly melodramatic tale, but poked dry fun at the mores of her time also shed light on the situation that 'genteel' women were placed in. I think she's an incredibly interesting writer.
     
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  21. OJB

    OJB Contributing Member

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    I thought about this question all day, and I wanted to give an answer and defend the idea of using poetics in novels.

    First off, the example you gave, I have no idea if it is a great metaphor or terrible metaphor as I don't have any context for the speaker or story. Next, I wanted to address the idea of Purple Prose. Purple Prose is when you write elegantly and poetically because you think it makes your writing 'look' better while not having any idea on how to handle poetics in a well-thought-out manner.

    I use poetics in my own writing; however, a lot of thought goes into using them, and often I cut back and change a lot of what I write, but let me give some insight into the thought process since that is the OPs question. I am going to look at the 'four' poetic I use: Imagery, Figure of Speech, Sound, and Meter, and give a brief explanation of why and how they should be used.

    Imagery (which often people call purple prose) is where you describe the story uses senses; however, describing the world in sensation is actually a by-product of imagery and is not the actual goal (this is where people get into trouble with their elegant prose.) Imagery is solely based upon the emotional subtext of the speaker, where the reader gains insight into the speaker's emotional state by paying attention to the things that the speaker notices about the world (this is called revealing, where you reveal things about the speaker by showing what the speaker notices about the world) and through their projections they make on what the notice about in the world (an example of projection would be the speaker notices two people fighting, and jumps to the conclusion they are having marriage problems, not because he knows this for certain, but because this is what is going on in the speaker's life at that moment.)

    Figures of speech, which the OP used in his example, are far more difficult to pull off due to their complexity. Figures of Speech add a new layer to Imagery by giving a speaker a tone and voice. Let's us take the opening example. If the Speaker in this story was a DR. per say, this would a ridiculous and silly Figure of speech to use. If however, that speaker was someone who loves fantasy and often compares things in his or her life to fantasy creatures and events, this would be entirely appropriate. Again, the figure of speech gives us insight into the character/speaker.

    Sound is one that goes unnoticed a lot, but if you had a line of dialogue where a character was singing, chanting, or praying, could you not see the benefit of using literary musical devices (Alliteration, Assonance, or Consonance)?

    Meter also has its use. Iambic Pentameter is often used because it matches the amount of Syllables a single human breath can pronounce. However, if you wanted to give something more-than-human voice you could have it speak in Iambic Hexameter, or if you the speaker was short of breath or in a panic you can use Iambic Terameter. My point is, by paying attention to the rhythm of speech you can subtly reveal things about the speaker.

    In conclusion, I know my response seems long winded, but I am very passionate about using poetics in story-telling. My point is this, it is not the poetics that are the problem, it is the lack of understanding on how to use them that is the problem. Great writers (Clive Barker, Stephen King, Frank Hurbert, etc.) All use them, but they understand how to use them and that is why it is effective. So, instead of saying that using poetics is 'silly', say 'the reasons your poetics are not working are A, B, & C.'

    -OJB
     
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  22. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Your example is not "poetic" - I think you've confused poetry with purple prose. The two are not the same. Much like info dump and expositions are really doing the same thing - giving background information that the author feels adds to or is essential to the story, but one is bad practice and the other an essential tool in any good novel. So it is with writing poetically and purple prose. Purple prose is when someone's trying too hard or what they wrote that they thought was poetic simply isn't (like in your example).

    Poetry, also, is not limited to metaphors and similes. It's about rhythm and context and timing - it's about saying more than what's on the surface of the words.

    Another thing is, perhaps poetry just isn't your thing - you simply don't enjoy it. That's fair enough. But you must distinguish that from whether the writing is actually good, whether the poetic devices actually work, because there's a difference. I could find a piece of writing boring and still understand that it's well-crafted, most of the time. When it comes to assessing writing, your own personal tastes and biases will always be in play, really, because too much about what's "good" writing is subjective, and it is good to be aware when something is purely personal taste and when something actually just does not work. This will help you become a better critic, and thus a better writer. (not implying you are a bad writer - but it is simply fact that being aware of your own tastes and what works for you will overall improve your skills)

    Your particular example is an example of bad writing. I love writing poetically in my novels and that example was bad.
     
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  23. Yariel

    Yariel Banned

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    how bout I do anyway?
     
  24. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns and the Oblivion Chain Supporter

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    If they can do it well, then the prose can express the transcendent. When they don't do it well, then the reader sees what they are attempting and it comes of as painfully amateur and vaguely pathetic. I think all the great authors do it to some degree. And by "great" I don't necessarily mean "classic."

    At its core, it's a mastery of imagery. I don't think it works unless the author has a strong voice.
     
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  25. Lemie

    Lemie Member

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    There are those readers who like poetic/purple writing.
    There are those who hate it.

    So, isn't it for the best that both kinds of writing exist?
     
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