So I've been reading a lot of Conan the Barbarian stories recently. So far my favorite is The People of the Black Circle.
Why? Well, for one thing, they're classic examples of the Sword & Sorcery genre...actually, they're the ur-example of Sword & Sorcery. Tolkien may have invented the standard fantasy world, but Robert E. Howard invented the standard fantasy feel, the adventurer that goes around and fights and slays and kills and loves and lives and dies as fate and fortune strike him. And personally I enjoy Conan more than Lord of the Rings, but I admit that's a taste thing.
The big reason why I've been reading them, though, is because I've wanted to start writing a bit more like Howard. Which sounds more like a guy you want to read about:
"Conan the Cimmerian came here, black-haired and moody and armed with a sword. He was a thief and a killer, depressed yet joyful, and he walked around a lot."
- or -
"Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet."
Me, I think it's way more interesting to read about a guy who tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet, then it is to read about a guy who walked around a lot.
Purple prose is best prose when you have a good writer behind it, and Howard was the master of purple prose alongside H.P. Lovecraft. It's derided a lot these days largely thanks to that dick Hemmingway and others like him, who felt that using anything but the most basic and simple of words in a story was bad. Me, I paid attention in English class and I did not learn nearly a half-dozen synonyms for "blue" just to never use them (azure, cerulean, sapphire, cobalt, marine). To my mind, using as simplistic words as possible to describe a scene is the literary equivalent of trying to paint the Sistine Chapel with crayola paint.
Of course, if the reader has to go to a thesaurus every third word, that's a problem, most likely on the writer's end. There's a balance that has to be struck. The writer shouldn't be trying to show off his command of English; rather, he should be focused on trying to use the most appropriate words for any given setting. Hence, Conan's hair is black because it doesn't really need to be described as anything else. But the Master of Yimsha's heart and soul are as ebon-hued as the moonless night.
Now I know what you're thinking: "What in God's name does this have to do with ponies?"
Well, like I said, I've been reading a lot of Conan 'cause I want to write more like Howard, specifically because Season 2 of the Lunaverse is likely to have more adventure-y bits and so I think it'd be fitting. Most specifically, I wanted to learn it for The Return of Tambelon, which I think could only benefit from having a Howard-like approach to its writing.
This, it turns out, is immensely amusing, because I have just finished reading a Conan story - the thirteenth that he wrote - which in many ways comes across very much like what I intend to do for Tambelon, or parts of Tambelon, anyway. The parallels are uncanny, but it's also different enough that I don't feel it's a bad idea to present it to you.
So, without further ado, may I present for your reading pleasure, and as something of a preview for The Return of Tambelon...