Jul 23, 2005

what's wrong with flowery prose?

So, dearest reader, you have been perusing Orwell's Politics and the English Language or Strunk and White's Elements of Style and have fabricated the inescapable conclusion that florid phraseology is less than desirable.

A pitiful result, for it is impossible for you to be more mistaken. Your prose should bloom like Antigone's asphodel and glitter like the fulgent firmament. I will show you how to transmogrify banal, direct words into the ethery essence of dreams.

1. Fall in love with alliterative adjectives and adverbs.

Your words should be as much a joy to the ear as to the eye. Alliteration is the most melodious mode of writing, pleasing the pickiest peruser. Keep a thesaurus within reach at all times, whether breezily bicycling to Burma or merrily mowing the lawn's luscious locks.

2. Employ maximal syllabification.

Hemingway's clipped prose is a sin against God. No, no, no. Again: Hemingway's truncated scribbling is an abomination contravening the express wishes of the deity. Let your words flow like a river. No, not yet. Better: Allow your utterances to disembogue like a deluge.

3. Once isn't enough.

Though Orwell takes his cue from the book Ecclesiastes, you should find your inspiration in the pseudonymous Psalms of David. Parallelism is the modus operandi of the Hebrew poet, and you should appropriate it as your own, clutch it to your breast, inscribe it in your mind, write it on the tablets of your heart.

4. Mix and match metaphors.

Good: The loss threatened to destroy his dreams.
Better: The loss loomed like a boulder, threatening to destroy his dreams.
Best: The loss loomed like a bulky boulder, threatening to tear his dreams into pitiful pieces and send him spiralling into a vortex of vacillation.

5. Active verbs are sweaty verbs.

Remember, you want your sentences to effuse effortlessly, not to halt and jerk around the page leaking perspiration everywhere. Moderate active constructions and smooth out rough verbiage. Soften the blow and lessen the impact of strong, overpowering words like "crash" or "snort." Prefer the lubrication of Latin to the asperity of Anglo-Saxon.

6. The all-encompassing rule: Read and imitate Henry James.

[twenty-sixth in a series]


coturnix said...

Hmmmm...that looks like the way I write...or want to write before I catch myself. Perhaps I should just let it flow freely and fiercely out of the innermost depths and chasms of my pained and conflicted soul. Push past the prophets from the past and permit projectile parabolas of puke to plaster the puny poetry and pitiful prose all over the publishing platform.

Jim said...

Masterly, magnificent method, my man.

Brendan said...

I occurs to me that, perhaps, reference to "our Supreme Creator" would be more efficacious phraseology in illustrating the lesson of polysyllabic verbiage.
Also, I propose that "shatter" would be a more puissant lexeme than "tear," and, in point of fact, "Shatter his hopes and dreams into scintillating shards of faliure" might be nigh ideal in this instance.