How to Write Orange Prose
Let’s get some things down first before we jump into the wonderful world of Orange Prose.
What is prose? You say?
And what, exactly makes it orange?
And is it curable?
All in good time. Also, no.
Prose is this. This as well. And also, prose is this. It is everything, it is all encompassing, it is impossible to here describe prose to you without using it. Prose is written language that is not poetry.
Now into the very scientific distinctions between the colors of prose. Whip out your physics degree and your protractor. Still have that graphing calculator from 10th grade? The one you used to type "BOOBS" on (PSA that's 80085. Try it, I'll wait.)
Purple Prose is the most well known color of prose. Some people hate it, some people say they hate it but are lying. This is prose that's so corny and overcooked it might remind you of your least favorite aunt's cornbread bake.
If you're reading something and you find that you're A) glossing over whole sentences because they're not doing anything or B) pausing to roll your eyes every few lines C) gagging on the romanticism of it all, then you're likely reading Purple Prose like a heavily perfumed flower budding carefully into the first warmth of spring, its calyx peeling gently from its blood-red silken bosom.
And you know what? Purple Prose isn't always wrong. If you're writing a romance novel that's probably what your readers are expecting. If you're playing it for laughs, we should probably be friends. And sometimes life is romantic. But not always. And the cliches are never helpful.
On the other end of the spectrum we'll find Beige Prose. Simple sentences, the kind your precocious kindergartener might write, that get the job done.
"Bob went to school. He liked school. School taught him how to write, but not well. Bob wrote like this. Bob bored people. Don't be like Bob." - By Laura Loup (plz credit, no stealing)
You know who's kinda like Bob but does it right? You guessed it. Hemingway. Check this out:
"In the morning I walked down the Boulevard to the rue Soufflot for coffee and brioche. It was a fine morning. The horse-chestnut trees in the Luxembourg gardens were in bloom. There was the pleasant early-morning feeling of a hot day. I read the papers with the coffee and then smoked a cigarette. The flower-women were coming up from the market and arranging their daily stock. Students went by going up to the law school, or down to the Sorbonne. The Boulevard was busy with trams and people going to work."
Aside from maybe "brioche," Bob knows all of these words. It's simple, direct, and gets the point across but with a bit more finesse. He varies the length of his sentences. It gives us the sense that this guy isn't terribly layered and emotional, he's a "you see what you get" straight-forward type and that works. And this leads us well into Orange Prose. I wouldn't call the above "Beige" per-say, but it's not "Purple" by any means. It's sort of a low saturation orange.
So, you say, what the hell is Orange Prose?
@Cate_Pearce on Twitter and she'll tell you. No, sorry, kidding. She and I worked on this one together and she made the sweet graphic at the top. I just used my knowledge of color theory to come up with this very original and interesting name.
Orange Prose is prose that gets the point across without extra flowery language but doesn't shy away from a bit of pizazz. Similes are fine, as long as they're fresh and visceral like cold apple cider vinegar on a hot day. Alright, I panicked. Similes can be good, I'm sure of it. I'll just let you write the good ones from now on, alright?
The point of Orange is to keep it simple and direct but not take us back to elementary school with Jane and her dog and the dog that she walked and the dog that- you know what maybe I should just stick to writing primers.
Love all things between the colors yellow and red? You'll love the Audacity. She's so orange, you really can't look at her for too long without eye damage. Bright as the sun, that rocket ship. Pre-Order my New Adult Sci-fi novel "The Audacity" on Amazon! or Malaprops for Kobo! or Barnes & Noble for Nook! Releases August 6th.