P – Purple Prose

My A to Z Challenge theme is teaching you how not to write a book, or a short story, or any piece of creative writing whatsoever. For more information, including links to previous chapters and lessons, please refer to this post. Now buckle in and proceed with…



Billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle is tired of living the jetset life of champagne, bucking broncos, kilts, fast cars, and burning bundles of cash for warmth. Desperate to find meaning in his life, he retires to his family’s isolated cabin in the wilds of New Jersey, on the shores of majestic Lake Latrine.

There, Hawk plans on self-reflection and pursuing the great love of his life—fishing. However, Hawk’s self-imposed loneliness comes to an end when he makes a most unusual companion and fishing buddy.

Dropsy Velvet was once a young woman living on the shores of Lake Latrine with her settler family. However, a curse turned her into a mermaid and now she lives, sad and alone, in the depths of the lake. She hasn’t had human contact for close to fifty years, thanks to everyone either being terrified of her or thinking they’re drunk when they see her—but Hawk may be the connection to the world she’s been craving. Charmed by her innocent face, sparkling wit, and huge bare breasts, Hawk decides to help her find a way to lift the curse, as she will lift his: the curse of ennui and affluenza. But time is running out, for something sinister wants to flush Latrine away forever.

Purple Prose

Hawk put Dropsy in the bathtub for safekeeping. No mean old ladies would get her there. The sight of her floating in the water of his spacious tub with its massaging jets made his loins quiver. She gazed up at him with limpid blue eyes, her ruby lips parted in supplication. He couldn’t resist. He knelt next to the tub and kissed her.

She quivered like a flower beaded with dew at the first touch of morning light. She tasted like heaven, like all the goodness and peace and tranquility he’d missed out on in life. He scooped her up into his arms, the entire length of her supple, trembling form, half glorious woman, half sensual fish. She wrapped her tail around him like silken bonds he never wanted to escape from.

He stopped kissing her and drew back, to gaze into her eyes. “You are the answer to all my prayers.” His manhood surged like a knight on the battlefield, about to vanquish the enemy.

“And you mine.” She touched his face, her fingertips like a delicate breeze. “Oh, Hawk MacHardcastle, take me.”


‘Purple prose,’ defined as the overuse of flowery, metaphorical (and ridiculous) language, especially in moments of passion, is usually the domain of romance writers, but it can pop up in all sorts of writing. In defense of romance writers—if you aren’t one and don’t already know this—purple prose is the relic of a bygone era. Most romance writers do not use purple prose these days and it is in fact actively discouraged by editors and agents. The stereotypical, pulpy romance novel overflowing with throbbing manhoods and heaving bosoms is in the past and in fact was probably never as prevalent as it’s made out to be.

This sort of overblown, lurid language tends to pop up in other genres too, especially with writers who don’t typically write sex scenes. It’s my opinion that these writers are uncomfortable writing sex scenes so they try to make them sound artsy and pretentious (see the famous laughable attempt that Morrissey made in his novel List of the Lost.) There’s even an award dedicated to awful sex scenes. Here’s my advice on purple prose—don’t do it, ever. If you’re uncomfortable writing sex, don’t write it. And if you write about sex, just write about sex, without using the words ‘loins,’ ‘heaving,’ or ‘dewy flower.’

And you’ll be relieved to know, I will not write Hawk and Dropsy’s sex scene. We’ll fade to black here (I know, you’re all dying to know how you do it with a mermaid).

Author: Megan Morgan

Paranormal and contemporary romance author.

26 thoughts

  1. What’s wrong with molten core? It is honest! Aren’t y’all hot and turned on by sex? You have the mile-wide shoulders and the heat seeking missel and the molten core! S’ok! You think in real life people don’t play during sex, such as with glow-in-the-dark condoms?! Just don’t talk about cream or “flocks of birds being released” or wussy-stuff like that. And don’t avoid saying cock or pussy, just don’t avoid terms of HEAT or you’ll have passionless sex! IMHO


  2. Purple prose always throws me out of the story and makes me laugh. I recently read a romance where the character stated her body was weeping to have the dude inside her. I was BAHAHAHAHAHAHA! The plus side to that is it does make the story more memorable, but probably not in the way the author hoped. I also had a writer buddy open a story with the purplest prose ever and it made it so boring.

    ~Ninja Minion Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author


    1. Hahaha omg, what does that even MEAN, her body was weeping? That sounds like the opposite of wanting it! 😉 But yes, it makes me laugh too. I’m like…can’t they just have sex without it being all singing birds and bad poetry?


  3. That was hilarious! I especially liked the line about quivering “like a flower beaded with dew at the first touch of morning light.” I guess it’s her turn to be absurd. 🙂 They certainly are made for each other.


  4. But… excuse me, that’s cheating. A man and a mermaid, I was curious to see how incredible Hawk does it. Though I think she will take him… well, never mind…

    About purple prose, I don’t think it only refers to sex scenes. Many fantasy and horror writers resort to purple prose for obvious reasons. I even think that in these speculative genres, purple prose is a bit more acceptable, even if we’re always adviced agaisnt it, in any case.


    1. Ha! You’ll just have to fill the rest in with your (dirty) imagination! 😉

      That’s interesting! I think I know what you’re talking about, too. I can see why it would be acceptable if it’s simply part of the genre–food for thought! Thank you!


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