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Disdain for Beautiful Writing (1 Viewer)

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lumino

Senior Member
Disdain for Beautiful Prose

It seems that today many disdain prose with a style that makes you attend to it, discouraging those who would write that way from doing so, and urging them to use the plainest words that they can. I, on the other hand, though I have striven to avoid writing that way in this post, and though I can make no claim to being an excellent writer, strongly disagree with them.

But what do I mean by a style that makes you attend to it, a style that many urge others not to use? I mean a style with the sound of poetic cadences, in which you can hear in many places a regular beat, and in other places a beat more varied, such as in the prose of works like the King James Bible. This book, not only because it is the word of God, but also because the translators, in treating it as such, crafted its prose with beautiful rhythms according to highly sensitive ears, is considered to be the most noble monument of English prose, as it is called in other works, and its majestic sound is unmatched by that of any other writings in our language.

Since it is this book, and not those written in the modern plain style, which is so highly praised, why do authors give the advice to many who want to be writers, not to imitate prose with a sound so beautiful? It would seem that in this era, the most cherished doctrine pertaining to style is that of minimalism, which teaches the use of the fewest necessary words, and seems to be responsible for the lack of adornment in all writing that adheres to it. But this need not be so, for we see in the King James Bible that no unnecessary words can be found, and that even if we can find any, they do not appear superfluous.

Therefore, the advice on writing is not sound that is given by many today, for though in one case it may lead to clear writing, in the other case it may disappoint some wanting to read and write more beautiful prose.
 
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lumino

Senior Member
Hi Lumino, are you referring to purple prose ?

Well, had I been thinking it bit more clearly, I would have written of a distinction between purple prose and the prose of the King James Bible. I guess when I started writing the OP I was thinking of purple prose but then I started talking about the majestic prose of the KJV, which I do not consider to be purple prose.
 
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Kyle R

WF Veterans
Taste in prose is really a matter of personal taste.

To some, poeticism and cadence make for beautiful writing. To others, simplicity and clarity are what makes prose stellar. And then there are all those degrees in between.

It really varies from reader to reader.

There are also a lot of modern writers who write with a poetic, archaic flair, reminiscent of Bible-esque prose. Consider Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer, for example (just one example out of many). :encouragement:
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
I love beautiful prose & insist on it where possible. But I do recognise that that can take many forms - baroque, elegant, stark, insightful, vivid, and so on.
 

lumino

Senior Member
Taste in prose is really a matter of personal taste.

To some, poeticism and cadence make for beautiful writing. To others, simplicity and clarity are what makes prose stellar. And then there are all those degrees in between.

It really varies from reader to reader.

There are also a lot of modern writers who write with a poetic, archaic flair, reminiscent of Bible-esque prose. Consider Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer, for example (just one example out of many). :encouragement:

I just looked inside that book on Amazon a couple hours ago. It doesn't sound quite biblical, but it sure sounds good. Could you recommend any other books like that one?
 

AdrianBraysy

Senior Member
I can appreciate good prose. I think the reason new writers are discouraged from using it, is because they mostly use it as padding to increase word count, and they just don't have a good foundation of understanding alliteration, meter, wordplay etc... If that's the case, it's better to stick to a simple, minimalist style.

I also don't like it when prose draws so much attention to it that it pulls me out if the story. This is just my preference though.
 

JustRob

FoWF
WF Veterans
Good stories deserve good prose and outstanding scenes deserve excellent prose, but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, so find the good story first rather than attempting to embellish whatever you have to hand. A good story will shine through the plainest prose just as a beautiful woman will be seen as such when wearing the simplest clothes. Metered rhythms may have their place but plainsong is also beautiful in its way. What is truly appealing ultimately is variety.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I suppose it's that I like to be able to follow what's being written rather than regularly checking that I've understood something correctly. If I want to read a Bible, I'll go and read a Bible. I don't expect or want Bible-style writing in a story that I've selected for reading. If someone wishes to write that way, fine, but I wouldn't expect it to hold the attention of most modern readers for very long.

I'm not doubting its beauty, merely its practicality in an era when it's difficult to persuade many to sit down and read a book at all, never mind one that's written in a style that most modern readers might find hard to follow.
 
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Bayview

WF Veterans
OP - this is the second forum where I've read your complaints of this nature, and having been party to many of the previous discussions you now complain about... you still aren't hearing what people are saying. They're not saying that simple writing should be the ultimate goal of all writers. They're saying your writing doesn't make sense because you focus only on rhythm and ignore meaning. It's personalized advice based on your apparent abilities. For you, it would almost certainly be better to write more simply, at least until you're able to write something that a reader can follow.

That said, I think you've come a long way, if the initial post in this thread is indicative of your current abilities. It's still flowery, to my taste, with all the repetitions, but at least I was able to pull your meaning out of it. So if you're making progress doing things your way, that's great and you should carry on. But WHY do you keep starting threads on the topic? What is it you hope to learn from the responses that you haven't heard from the many nearly identical threads you've started in the past?
 

lumino

Senior Member
OP - this is the second forum where I've read your complaints of this nature, and having been party to many of the previous discussions you now complain about... you still aren't hearing what people are saying. They're not saying that simple writing should be the ultimate goal of all writers. They're saying your writing doesn't make sense because you focus only on rhythm and ignore meaning. It's personalized advice based on your apparent abilities. For you, it would almost certainly be better to write more simply, at least until you're able to write something that a reader can follow.

That said, I think you've come a long way, if the initial post in this thread is indicative of your current abilities. It's still flowery, to my taste, with all the repetitions, but at least I was able to pull your meaning out of it. So if you're making progress doing things your way, that's great and you should carry on. But WHY do you keep starting threads on the topic? What is it you hope to learn from the responses that you haven't heard from the many nearly identical threads you've started in the past?

Thanks for the advice. I keep trying to push myself to write a rough draft without editing, because that would ensure that I have a solid meaning before revising any rhythmic or harmonic effect into it, but I often end up sabotaging any willingness I might have to do so. I think that's probably my main problem, not writing a rough draft. In the past I tried to revise a rough draft I had written, and I simply couldn't get it to flow the way I wanted. So I got discouraged and figured that such a method would never work. Of course, several years before that I had been successful in writing a cadenced piece through revision.

Thanks for the compliment about my post. I am not really satisfied with it. I know it's not perfect and I know it may be verbose. But it is a good thing that it has meaning and that you were able to understand it.

I'm not really complaining about anything. At least I didn't intend to. I was just treating the subject as a brief writing exercise. I do want responses though. But I guess that there is nothing new that can really be said about the matter, as you said. So I think maybe I will stop discussing the subject and simply focus on writing something.
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
When I read Shakespeare's flowery prose I accept it because that was how you wrote back in the day.
When I read David Keller I accept the bare-bones style of writing because that's how they wrote back then.
But modern writing has changed. Writing is always evolving, and although a style may have been all the rage in 1936, it doesn't always work in 2018.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Poetry is the best way to write prose. Poets have strong voices too. Why not do both if you could write them at the same time? I envy in a good way a poets' craft. The only reason I haven't tried it yet is that I need to self-teach myself. I am making assumptions about this one, but it should make you rediscover themes you care about. Poetry and fiction are both related it seems. I know a supposedly good book on poetry, still, I plan on getting it. Will take my money next month to buy it I imagine since I don't have many earnings. I do not work to prevent my health from deteriorating. My health is improving though. If you need a recommendation send me a pm.I've been eyeing this book for a while now. If you want a book on how to rhyme with meter like Shakespeare, the same book has a companion book all on rhyming.
 
I think the reason new authors are discouraged from writing in "high style" prose is that there's nothing more grating than faked high style--those pieces of prose that read like a sixth-grader trying to imitate Shakespeare. It's not a disdain for beautiful writing but a disdain for pretension.

However, if you can succeed at writing high style prose that rings true, do. No need to try to write in a minimalist style if that's not your natural voice.
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
The worst prose is prose that tries to sound elevated. It comes off as contrived and trite. Great prose like Steinbeck, Hemingway, McCarthy (The Road), Roth... is straight forward, based on declarative sentences, strong characters and very little that calls attention to the writing itself.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Some provocative posts.

Many here would agree that from a business letter to a Hemingway novel, prose is a vehicle designed to carry, in the first instance, information, in the second, elements of Story. The object is to move forward to a destination. We do not want to luxuriate in the overall style or pause and reflect on the beauty of a particular phrase. As readers we want to move forward. "That novel was such a page turner! I read til three in the morning." With excellent prose, the style seems to disappear. The word "seamless" is often used.

Poetry is different. The words, phrases, overall language, line lengths, spacing and layout on the page all contribute to the process of seeing the human condition with fresh eyes, of peeling back the concrete stuff that make our days to reveal new congruities, new insights, new cohesion. William Blake said the poet should "see the world in a grain of sand." With excellent poetry the process, the journey, is more important than a specific destination.

Can a prose story be told in a rich poetic style that moves the story forward in rhythmic beauty? Yes it can. Tim gives a few examples of novelists just above. I would add, not necessarily the entire novelist, but certainly Moby Dick.

And I would suggest that a writer might develop this kind of style in fiction, might become better at it over time, as long as the core was there in the beginning. I do not think this kind of prose style could be successfully taught to anyone who just writes well; I do not think one could set out to learn this kind of style as a personal project. A hint of emotion, of feeling, of mystery will be there. Or not.


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