March 29
Over the years I've discovered that inspiration is very much like being struck by lightning. The wonderful thing ... is that it strikes again, and again, and again.


JANUARY 14, 2011 8:47AM

Harp, the Head-Hopper and His Purple Prose

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On numerous occasions and in several posts, I have sought to explain my status as a rookie among a field of genuine writers.  I wandered in here one day… and I stayed.   I read a great deal, but other than proposal writing, customer project reports, developing sales and marketing collateral and some internal user guides, I've never considered myself a writer.  I haven’t had the training and I could probably drown in the grammatical rules that dictate the written English language.  

Then there is the placement of commas.  Those are the most damnable little things. I recall rationalizing a while back that the best guidance to use in the placement of a comma was to read the sentence aloud, and where I needed to inhale… that would determine where I placed the comma.   This resulted in more than a few run-on sentences and some fairly incomprehensible writing. 

I was thrilled to finally partner with Microsoft Word, who lovingly underlined misspelled words in red and underlined most grammatical faux pas in green.   With such a partnership, I could actually convince myself that I knew what I was doing.  

Then, I recently invited a friend here in the Open Salon to read some old posts of mine.  What I received was not only positive reinforcement, but some sincerely appreciated constructive feedback.  I learned that I allowed instances of “purple prose” in at least one piece that was reviewed, using unnecessarily elaborate or flowery words.   I was also shown where I was guilty of “head hopping” in another story.

I was thrilled.  This was a professional critique of my stuff by someone whose work I respect.  The party in question liked my writing overall… but here was something concrete that I could work on.  I admit to being a bit of a perfectionist about some things.  I intend to improve my writing skills if I am going to keep doing this.

Now if I only understood what “head hopping” and “purple prose” really means!

So I looked it up.  It was easy to find on the Internet, along with numerous examples of bad writing.  I also found a great deal of material relative to Point of View.  A lot of this I’d figured out on my own, but apparently I’d missed some things.   Clearly this is Basic Writing 101 for most of you, but it’s a course I never took.  I’ve been getting along with my undergraduate bachelor’s degree, Microsoft Word, and a fairly creative imagination.  

Investigating Purple Prose was actually entertaining.  The picture used at the top of this post was taken from a web site where people are having a great deal of fun with an expanded version of the concept.  

Nevertheless, I can do better. 

Right now I am not sure if I will repost revised versions of some of my earlier work, or simply focus on personal improvement from this point forward.  In either case, it’s a start.  I am grateful to my friend for pointing me in the right direction and more than appreciative of more constructive feedback on future work going forward.

I'm excited.  Now, if I can only figure out those damn commas.               

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Ah yes, the dreaded commas. Purple prose and head hopping are new concepts for me as well. My undergraduate degree in Psychology clearly didn't prepare me well for the writing world. Open Salon is a great place to interact and learn from others. Keep writing. I enjoy your work very much. R
Some of our greatest writers never took writing 101 and if they had it may have stiffled their greatness...Think Faulkner!

Elijah Rising
As someone who has first-hand knowledge of both your writing skills and your tendency toward perfectionism, I encourage you to just keep writing. Your work is head and shoulders above the average, Bro. I wouldn't want you to get caught up in rules and convention and risk ruining your natural flow. Commas, they keep telling me, are overrated.

Hello Rita… When I first came here, it seemed like a developmental proving ground where you try new stuff, exercise your skills and learn by watching others. This is the first time anyone actually offered help and a technical critique. I hope this isn’t misinterpreted as me making light of this offer. I am genuinely thrilled. I take self improvement seriously.

Elijah… Thank you. If this evolves as I hope it will, I will develop my materials in the same manner that I always have. I know when I am on to something, because I will begin writing and it just seems to flow. My first draft is always in one sitting. Then I go back and begin a series of edits. (The real challenge here is that I am thoroughly convinced that you cannot proof your own work. It’s too easy to see what you intended and not what’s there.) The difference now will be that I expect to be clearer on what I am looking for during those edit cycles.

Hey Lezlie… Overrated, but necessary, and the English language is such a rigid business. Either it’s right or it’s wrong. As you know… I want to be right. Thanks anyway Sis. You are the best.

Joba… I love what you said here. “Fusion is invention.” And I do believe that for a written work to be compelling and engaging… the “layers” (as a friend called them) must be properly fused together. After that, the rest is the variety of life. Writing about a wide variety of subjects is what keeps it fun for me. Thanks guy.

Flower Child… I enjoy writing erotica although I haven’t written anything recently. I have several pieces that you can more easily find in my July 2009 index link at the left of this blog. I think I am more susceptible to the “purple prose” when writing about sexual intimacy. I’ve gotta work on it. Meanwhile, I might look into the contest. Thanks again lady.
Well, I'm an English major with an emphasis in creative writing, and I don't know what "head hopping" is. That's gonna drive me nuts. (Off to google "head hopping"...) Keep up the good writing - you are a welcome addition to OS!
head hopper? I assume it doesn't involve going from bathroom to bathroom
Blue in TX… That was a really nice thing to say. Thank you. The previous post was emotional and inspired a great deal of discussion, so this felt like the right follow-up and it was. Plus the timing was perfect because I’d really just received the feedback I mentioned. I’m also a sucker for variety. I need to vary the types of posts I put up like fish need to swim. Having people who will come and read what you write is what makes it worthwhile. Thanks again.

White and Black… Here is where I went to find some explanation and guidance. Clearly there is more on the Internet, but this is a place to start. Welcome to my blog by the way.