Sunday, January 15, 2012


I am in the throes of a major rewrite. What started as tweaking has turned into an entirely different story. Didn't intend for it to turn out that way, but it has. While writing and reviewing I've noticed something. I have an affinity for certain phrases and they pop up on every few pages. I call them Purple Phrases.

Purple phrases even happen to the best known authors. Authors who have a bazillion books in print. I recently read a book by a well-known writer and she used a phrase that repeatedly glared at me and spit out an annoying repetition in reference to the heroine's eyes. The phrase was "cornflower blue eyes."
Her eyes were a cornflower blue. Tears welled up in her cornflower blue eyes. She glared at him with cornflower blue eyes. 

All right! All right! I get it! Her eyes were cornflower blue! Sheeze.

But then, I find I'm just as guilty. The phrases that keep finding their way in my novel are:
A sigh escaped her. A sly grin stole over his face. His puppy-dog eyes. And another thing. I have found that my characters are constantly drinking coffee. Hmmmm, maybe because I am drinking coffee while writing?

I knew I had to do something in order to keep from aggravating my reader, so I made a "Purple Phrase" list and taped it to my computer screen. This helps to remind me to keep escaping sighs and sly grins in check. And when I discover a new PP, I add it to the list.

What about you? Do you have any purple phrases? What are they? And what do you do to avoid them while writing?


Jan Morrill said...

I know I have some purple phrases, but I can't think of them right now. What I do know is, I used the verbs gazed, clutched, turned and glared too much. My characters also drink a lot of tea and read a lot of newspapers. :) Also, I seem to like to use metaphors that contain a leaf or leaves a lot. Good post, Linda. I'll have to watch for purple phrases!

scifidave said...

I'm sure I have a few, but can't lay a thought on one at the moment. I'll make a mental note to look for them.
I like Jack Higgins novels, but it seems it's always raining. Always raining.
Anybody ever tell you you're as cute as a button? Silly phrase, for sure, but it fits some people. Hope you can hang onto that for a few more decades.

Pamela Foster said...

Ah huh,when I edited Bigfoot Blues, I found sooo many scenes that were 'fog shrouded'.
I just finished the first re-write of Noisy Creek and found three places where the younger man's kiss on the lips of the older woman was refered to as 'like warm summer rain on drought-starved earth.' Jeez Louise. Okay. We get it. It'd been awhile since she got some.

Sharon Ervin said...

Reviewing for a moment, I was embarrassed to touch this. I am intimidated enough without calling attention to purple phrases or words. One editor once said she got embarrassed when I used the words "suckle" and "nuzzle," although I did not use them "overly much." I had just reread D.H. Lawrence's LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER. D.H. sort of wrote the book on suggestive words and scenes, if you're interested in that kind of thing. Someone told me the reason electronic readers are such a rage is that they camouflage steamy books behind dignified-looking covers. Maybe.

Wisdom Seeker said...

Linda! Thanks for great 'food for thought'! I'm not actually doing ENOUGH writing at this point in time to catch these repetitions (of which I have no doubt I too fall victim). Hope to change my trend in 2012 and maybe even attend the Ozark Writer's Conference (where I first met you) this year!
Thanks for blogging your personal discoveries to help make better writer's out of all of us. : )

David A. Todd said...

I keep having my characters make "a wry smile". Apart from the fact that I'm not exactly sure what a wry smile is, it was clearly over done. I also have a problem saying "a little bit" when "a little" will do nicely.

For any of these phrases, or for the pesky dead words (that, there, was, were, etc.), I do a search and replace, the replacement being simply to color highlight those words. I then have to go through the mss and accept or reject each one, making sure it's not dead in that circumstance.