I feel that the following example from Rosa Luxemburg is good at describing my goal. Despite using "complicated" words it doesn't come off as pretentious or edgy, but it still manages to give off the feel of being said through gritted teeth.

Violated, dishonored, wading in blood, dripping filth – there stands bourgeois society. This is it, in reality. Not all spic and span and moral, with pretense to culture, philosophy, ethics...

My problem is that I always end up writing everything like... fanfiction. It sounds like I'm trying too hard. Are there rules of thumb or great examples to learn from?



Hands awash with blood, guilt smeared upon their faces. Any vestige of honor they might have had was swept away by the tide of war. They sent these men to die and the dying made them rich. They called out to the men with cries of victory, but their words were hollow and their "victory" was bought.


Entering the square I heard nothing but tired footsteps and the occasional clop of hooves. Idle chatter was held in whispers and smiles quickly faded. The few cars that weren't scrapped for parts lay abandoned; any viable fuel had been used by the military. The statue still stood, a shining symbol of hope the city once had.

  • 2
    I think it sounds just fine. Don't worry too much about the little stuff, and write your thing!!
    – user34214
    Feb 3, 2020 at 19:45

4 Answers 4


I personally see nothing wrong with your example. It seems that you're being too critical of yourself for which I myself can be guilty of. You have to start putting things in perspective when it comes to your writing. And then, you'll realize that it's okay.

  • That's not my example, I'm citing it as an example of something good. Feb 3, 2020 at 16:18
  • I added my example though, let me know what you think. Feb 3, 2020 at 16:26

Let me try to answer what is "fan fiction feel"

I think the biggest fan fiction feel is telling instead of showing. There are other great answers on this topic on the site, so I won't go into too much detail. All the statements you have are very specifically telling us what happen and how to feel about it.

Any vestige of honor they might have had was swept away by the tide of war.

You are just telling is honor is swept away. And we know that's bad. So you are telling us something is bad.

hey sent these men to die and the dying made them rich.

Again morality is just being summed up here. You have told us that they got rich on other people's lives, and we know that's bad.

So the things you are doing here are not descriptions. They are summaries of events. There is a time and place for such things, but not for the majority of a work meant to be a novel. It may be more useful in a short story where you need to quickly set the scene. In a long work you should show these men getting rich. Maybe introduce a character that went to war and now has PTSD, and a merchant that got rich on the same war by staying home and selling weapons. Let the reader figure out what is going on and how to feel. Then in these scenes you can use vivid descriptions.

  • Thank you, I've never quite been able to pin down why I hate some of my own writing so much. Feb 4, 2020 at 13:49

I think I get what you mean. I think your samples are simply too long. When you use a style like that you are going for impact. It needs to be sharp. You are making a statement. Singular.

This is in contrast to normal where a paragraph is about a single topic and makes several related statements about it. With this style each statement should go into separate paragraph as if it was a separate topic.

Because structurally it is. You are being verbose to make a particular statement more vivid.

In example one sentences one and two set up sentence three. The fourth sentence then follows and talks about same people and same general topic but it is not really part of the same structure with the previous three sentences and comes off disjointed because the third sentence already had the impact the first two sentences set up.

BTW, I agree with others you are probably too harsh on yourself but this is my guess of what was bothering you. You set up an impact with good flow and then there is that extra sentence that doesn't get the impact and it feels bit off from the flow you wanted.

In example two, you are making two points without a pause in between to break them. You first talk of how the people are then about stuff that is around and it is unclear which you want to stress and make vivid which makes using this style pointless for your goals.

From your complaint I'd assume you want your text to have flow and rhythm that raises it above "fan fiction". A constant drumbeat of repeated impacts that blur together does not have that. You need to properly separate the beats. Being "vivid" means being needlessly specific and descriptive about something, so you need to be very specific about what are specific about. Specific is specific.

I think I am being bit hard to understand so I'll try to give a model to clarify.

You have a paragraph about topic T. You say three things about it A, B and C. Let us mark the result (A B C)=T.

Now you want to be more vivid about it so you expand on what you say for effect and do extra set up. Like this ((a b c)->A (d e f)->B (g h i)->C)=T. Now the structure is too complex because you effectively added on extra level to the logical hierarchy. In your examples it still kind of worked because you kept the paragraph short enough instead of making up a pathological example for clarity like I did. But you still have an extra level of structure that impacts the flow negatively. The solution is to unfold the hierarchy to separate paragraphs. ((a b c)->A)=T ((d e f))->B)=T ((g h i))->C)=T, where since they are no longer same paragraph the T and its structure has no impact, is not needed, and you just get (a b c)=A (d e f)=B (g h i)=C, three sensible paragraphs with clear and specific topics of vivid description and without excess structure.

The explanation probably made it less clear. But anyway, this is just my guess of what might be bothering you with those examples. Since it probably has to do with the flow and rhythm of your writing you really need a longer sample for anyone more qualified than me to know for sure.


Sometimes the best way to describe something is poetic, sometimes the best way to describe something is prosaic. Some authors' natural voices are flowery, others have natural voices that are plain. Some scenes demand vivid imagery, others don't. What makes prose "purple" is when style calls attention to itself in a way that doesn't serve the material.

If you're working in imitation of another writer, chances are, it won't sound right on you. But that's fine --for a writing exercise, or for an early draft. I think the deeper issue is that you're editing before you write, censoring yourself with your own judgments. Don't worry now about how it sounds. Write as much purple prose, or as much painfully plain prose --or as much nakedly imitative prose! --as you want, until you get it all out of your system. Or, if the words are flowing, just keep them coming until you get the whole entire book down on paper (in one form or another).

But don't send it out until it is rewritten in your own writer's voice, as plain or as ornate as that might turn out to be.

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