I'm going to stay away from political speech here. We've all heard the promises. If you are like me, you're tone deaf to wild promises, silly answers and character attacks. November can't come soon enough.
This is about hyperbole in prose. Too often we've all met books that needed the help of a professional editor. I recently received an ARC from a writer I didn't know with a request for a cover blurb. Forget the fact that he wrote in a genre I didn't even read. It didn't matter to him. He sent an email with his ARC attached. This was my introduction to this stranger. Because he was within the six degrees of friendship with a writer I respect, I took a look at the draft.
I tried, really tried, to read his ARC.
I could see from the first page that the book had never met an editor in its life. Beyond the incorrect punctuation (commas vomited all over the place) and incorrect word usage (lay instead of lie, him and me used as a subject), the author was in love with CAPITAL LETTERS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! These weren't in dialogue, where I can tolerate (and use) a very few exclamation points. In one paragraph, six sentences ended with exclamation points. Six. Or, SIX! I began to wonder if he knew the difference between a period and an exclamation point.
Want to guess how many pages I lasted? Four.
I'm sorry, dude. You need to hire an editor, learn your craft and revisit your fifth grade grammar books. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, I politely declined to offer a cover blurb. I suggested his cover real estate would be better suited for a writer in his genre. He asked for introductions to such writers. Sheesh.
And purple prose. I thought gone were the days of a young girl seeing a handsome stranger across a crowded room and "falling into paroxysms of passion." With apologies to all the great romance writers on this blog, this is not a slam at your genre. The book I read for my book club is a NYT best seller. It was not listed as a romance. And in no way would it ever appear on the USA HEA lists. (Congrats to those of you who have landed there.) Short pithy sentences were frequently followed by elaborate descriptions full of strings of adjectives.
I really, really wanted to like this book. I really, really, really tried.
I love unreliable narrators. Heck, I'm polishing a WIP for publication next year where the narrator is both unreliable and unlikable. No one likes serial killers. And this one is a pip. Female. Tells her own story in the first person. May or may not have a moral compass. Knows why she kills. Learned her craft and practices it frequently.
The writer of this best seller "buried the lead" in this novel, to pick up a journalism term. The writer lost the opportunity to set the hook on the first few pages. I didn't know for several chapters who the primary narrator was. Just when I thought I was on top of the story, just when the pithy images grabbed my attention, the writer dipped her quill pen into a pot of purple ink and let adjectives and adverbs take over where character development and plot growth would have been a better choice.
I try to "write tight." I try to write with a reasonably spare prose. I love dialogue and let it carry the plot more often than not. My style isn't for everyone. Those readers who wait for my next book like it. I thank them every day when I sit to write more paragraphs that become pages.
So, writer peeps. What are your thoughts about hyperbole and purple prose? Thumbs up? Thumbs down?
Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I'm really excited that the trade paper edition of Uncharted Territory was released this week. Please follow me on my website, on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.