Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Creating Balanced Prose: A Guest Post By Crystal Collier


Today, Crystal Collier has stopped by to share info about her new book and to provide some writing tips! Take it away, Crystal!


Creating Balanced Prose

Thank you Ken for having me here today!

Purple prose. Passive voice. Stagnant sentence structure. Rambling. Lackluster language... There are so many ways to go wrong with our writing, it's a wonder we ever get it right.

So how do we get it right?


Every writer is different. You are going to develop your own "voice" if you haven't already. It won't necessarily be like your favorite author's. (It had better not be!) It will be a reflection of your SOUL. But on the less creepy end of things... Your voice will come from your personal understanding of the world, your interpretation of the genre you write, and your inner thoughts.

In order to develop this voice, you need to write BUT also read. Read everything--especially the genre you're writing. Be sure to include books outside of your genre. You'll find beauty in every field, even if you don't love the story conventions or characters.

Now that we're done with the touchy feely, let's talk about mechanics.

Purple prose. This is poetic language that can occasionally become overwrought, overly dramatic, or so poetic that readers scratch their heads. (We don't want head scratching.) The modern trend is to go simple. To ax this pretty stuff. Keep that in mind as you develop your style, and watch for where it appears in your genre. Dean Koontz writes thrillers, but his descriptions are so beautiful they would totally fall into the purple prose arena (according to some). Yet he's a best seller. Know the rules, don't let them crush you. I employ some of this in Moonless and Soulless, because they're both written in a time period where beautiful language prevailed. It's reflective of the era, and thus the filter I chose for telling these stories.

Passive voice. How do we identify it? Passive voice is reactionary. It's distant. It might even be vague. There's something (time, space, another person) between us and the action of the sentences. Ex: The room was cleaned by Angela. (See the distance between the character and the action?) In active voice: Angela cleaned the room. Now people tell us passive voice is NEVER acceptable. Most of the time, that's true. There are rare instances when it's necessary like in SHORT stints of exposition. (Quick backstory or summary to get us from one active scene to the next, or one active thought to the next.) To overcome passive voice, focus on the action of the moment and bring it to the front. Shove it in our faces. Throw the rest away.

Sentence structure. I'm not talking noun/verb. I'm talking variation and length. If you start five sentences in a row with "He", you're due for some revising. If you start each paragraph with sequence clauses (Before he ate dinner, he...), you should probably examine your method. And length. As readers, we like change. We like diversification. We need a break from long rambling sentences for sharp, single-word statements. See? The same goes for paragraph structure/length. The biggest thing I learned from script writing was not to fear white space. White space on the page gives readers a subconscious breath of fresh air. Some authors even apply this concept to chapter length. (Ahem. *points to self*)



Overwriting or rambling. Awesome writing is tight. Don't bore us with details that won't further the story. We know the character walked across the room because we see he is now looking out the peephole of the door. No need to tell us he walked across the room UNLESS you are using the action to show the character's emotional state. Tags are also not necessary when you have action beats that point us to the speaker. Likewise, examine your descriptions. Make sure every one of them points us to the MOST important aspect. The box may have four sides, but what can the character see and WHY are they focusing on it? Make your description purposeful. For instance, you may wish to describe a starry sky, but what the reader wants to know is that it's night, and the mood of that night. It could be terrifying, suffocating, awe-inspiring, or filled with jittery anticipation. Whatever it is, use language in your descriptions to bring out the mood. Another quick tip--don't repeat dialog in thought processes. And lastly, avoid adjectives and adverbs. They don't strengthen sentences. They bog them down. A great way to practice tightening up your writing is by trying your hand at Flash Fiction.

What advice do you have for writing balanced prose?


Thanks again, Crystal.  And if you guys enjoyed what she had to say, why don't you consider checking out her latest book? And don't forget to spin the scary-looking wheel at the end of this post.




In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

BUY: Amazon | B&N




Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese.


Find her online HERE




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22 comments:

  1. What's the opposite of purple? Yellow? That would be my prose.
    I'm much better with varying the lengths of sentences now. Although chapters still run long. I do break them up with a blank line in between sections though.

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    1. LOL. That's definitely a voice that lends more to a sci-fi audience.

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  2. I must admit, that purple prose was my biggest problem when I started writing. I still have to work on toning it down. Less is more, usually!

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  3. I'm still working at finding the balance. The good thing is (or maybe some may consider it a bad thing) we are ever evolving and learning as a person so our writing voice will develop and improve as we do. Great post. Thank you!

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    1. Yes! As long as we're always working at it, eh?

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  4. More great tips Crystal. My purpleness tends to come out in some works more than others. My last short story was on the purple side, but I barely scraped by on the necessary word count too. Odd how that worked out. :)

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    1. Yup. Actually, purple is occasionally acceptable in historical or romance genres. You just have to know your audience, eh?

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  5. Great post, Crystal. For me, it's best to read aloud sections I'm worried about - that helps me catch my cheesy sentences :)
    Hi Ken!!

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    1. Definitely. No one likes sounding cheesy.

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  6. Great tips. My favs are the love of white space and tight writing. So, so important!

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  7. Great tips, Crystal. I love that approach to humor--to start with something everyone knows and change the ending: You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led. like drinking a 5-hour energy every 2 hours, creates chaos out of order. Thanks, Crystal!

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    1. It truly does. So wonderful to see you here, Jacqui!

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  8. Thanks so much for stopping by today, Crystal. I know my readers enjoyed it.

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    1. Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity so much!

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  9. Excellent article, Crystal, especially the part about white space. That's hard to explain, but it's so important. All your points were very well taken and I agree 100%. Wishing you and TIMELESS much success!

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    1. Thank you, Lexa. White space is definitely one of those concepts that's difficult get.

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  10. Congrats, Crystal! There are definitely times and places to use purple prose and passive voice. Variety is the spice we need for our sentences no matter how we write. :)

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