Emotions That Touch Readers–or Not

In Sweetwater Creek, by Anne Rivers Siddons, Buddy, Emily’s soul mate brother, has died. Her other brothers say the puppy she’s chosen is just a hound dog.

Excerpt: So she named him Elvis, and took the puppy to her room, and fell as irretrievably in love as she ever would in her life. Girl and dog were two halves of a whole, two chambers of one heart. The swirling black abyss that Buddy had left was almost filled. But only almost. 

My Take-away:  Writing about grief and love is difficult. I think this passage is simply and beautifully evocative. (It helps if you’re a dog lover.)  My friend Gaylon Greer suggested a long time ago that I read Siddons as a guide to expressing emotion. One thing I don’t care for in this passage, however, is that it reveals the future, as in the clause ‘as she ever would in her life.’ Not something I’d emulate.

Excerpt: Oh, Buddy. The words felt as if they were etched in acid on the surface of the iceberg inside her. Oh, Buddy.

 My Take-away: Yikes! Sounds like a thirteen-year-old wannabe writer straining for a poetic line.

Your thoughts? Leave a comment.

3 thoughts on “Emotions That Touch Readers–or Not

  1. Is this where we get the phrase ‘purple prose?’

    The lines you quoted almost made me cry. At this point in my life I am too tender for emotional writing like that, meaning grief and loss.

    However, the emotion between men and women, or the love between friends–that is (to me) harder to convey.

  2. Here’s an interesting commentary on “purple prose” from the blog ThoughtCo: https://www.thoughtco.com/purple-prose-1691705

    and a passage from that blog post:

    “In purple prose, skin is always creamy, eyelashes always glistening, heroes always brooding, and sunrises always magical. Purple prose also features an abundance of metaphors and figurative language, long sentences, and abstractions.”
    (Jessica Page Morrell, Between the Lines. Writer’s Digest Books, 2006)

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