Some romances are sweet, some are spicy, and a few authors walk the fine line between the two. But in today's Purple Prose Taboo game the focus was on the graphic language that takes a steamy relationship to the next level. Authors Victoria Dahl, Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan are all known for their titillating sex scenes in their romance novels. But today they were put on the spot as they led readers in an explicit version of the popular board game Taboo. The room was filled with laughter as authors challenged readers to "guess that purple prose!"
While the fun was going on, we got a chance to chat with the authors about what inspired them to host this workshop and what exactly qualifies as 'purple prose'.
*READER WARNING* some of their answers are NSFW (not safe for work) and include graphic sexual language.
Victoria Dahl got us started ...
Purple prose can be a tough beast to define. It often seems to fall under the old “I’ll know it when I see it” definition. Sure, purple prose can be described as florid, overwritten, hyperemotional descriptions of sex and lust but... what is overwritten and hyperemotional? Words that might be romantic to me might strike you as so purpley they positively throb off the page.
All that said, Tessa, Courtney and I chose a list of words and named them purple! So basically ignore everything I said in that first paragraph. We all write historical romance, which is traditionally the most purple of all the subgenres, but we all choose to write pretty straightforward sex scenes. To put it bluntly, we call a cock a cock, as opposed to calling it...the silky steel column of his masculine desire. Still, when you’re writing a thick, meaty love scene, you can’t use the same word over and over again. You need some synonyms...and today's game was chock full of them! But watch your step. Getting too scientific can reduce me to giggles as easily as purple prose can. I have yet to manage the sexy use of the word vagina, for instance, though maybe Courtney has pulled it off.
Courtney Milan took the reins ...
Courtney here, and I have to say I haven't managed "vagina" yet. (Take that as you will.) But I figure that if you can't talk about her "weeping pearl" and his "tumescent manflesh," what can you talk about? Well, that's the question our game posed! Just like in the regular version of Taboo, readers were given a piece of purple prose--like "tumescent manflesh." Their goal was to get their team to guess what purple prose phrase they'd been given by, uh, well describing the word or phrase that they have.
To make the challenge interesting, there was a list of forbidden words. How do you make someone think of "tumescent manflesh" when you can't say "throbbing member" and "hard cock"? We romance writers have it hard, and we wanted you readers to share our pain.
And Tessa Dare finished the explaination off ...
I'll add the belated disclaimer--if you haven't figured it out already, this session was rated R! As in, "Really, truly hilarious." Think a bawdy, no-holds-barred version of the board game "Taboo." With dog toys! (You'll just have to ask someone who attended to find out what that was all about.) But in all seriousness, writing romance--and love scenes in particular--is all about finding fresh, new words to express the same old ideas. And parts. And positions.
We had some purple goodies for those who attended, and prizes for those intrepid enough to play. Also fans may have had the chance to watch me turn various shades of purple. Apparently, I have a much harder time than Victoria and Courtney blurting out words like...well, like those. Ahem. Okay, cock. There, I typed it. Can you see me turning purple yet?
From the silly to the serious, check back in just a few hours for our coverage of the annual awards ceremony as RT recognizes this year's Career Achievement winners and the RT Reviewers' picks for the best authors and books of 2010.