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Is there anything wrong with these sentences? (1 Viewer)

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lumino

Senior Member
In the noonday the darkness appeared and spread, quickly, the city in its path. Beasts and fowls were seized by fear at the sight of the darkness coming. So they scattered, many speeding on foot through the gates of the city.
 

Jack of all trades

Senior Member
In the noonday the darkness appeared and spread, quickly, the city in its path. Beasts and fowls were seized by fear at the sight of the darkness coming. So they scattered, many speeding on foot through the gates of the city.

Awkward. It seems like you're trying to say some unusual darkness was spreading in the middle of the day. But that image is not being clearly presented. Also, there's missing commas and extra commas.

If it were me, I'd reword this. Was the darkness tangible, like a fog? Was it a dimming of the sun, like during an eclipse? Why were the animals seeking shelter in the city? Was it because that was the "safe" direction, being still in the light? Because the natural instinct would probably be to avoid the city. I think.

Anyway, there's lots of questions that need to be answered. I think if you answer them in a revision, it will be better.
 

Blackstone

Senior Member
Hello Lumino,

Without seeing in context I would hate to say for sure however I wonder if the fact you're asking indicates you know the answer!

"Noonday" is not an expression I have heard of ever. It didn't jolt my spellcheck so I assume it's legitimate English, however its one of those phrases like "in the dark of the night" that sounds unnecessarily decorative. Pretentious even. And it would probably be "at the noonday" since noon at least is a time, not a place one can be 'in'.

It sounds like this is about an eclipse, is that correct? If so the ominous tone works well, however it is a little generic. Again, your main problem is tautology/overwrite. It is not necessary to say "beasts and fowls' because a beast is just another word for an animal and a fowl is a type of animal. It is not necessary to put "speeding on foot" because unless the animals are driving cars we can assume they are doing so 'on foot'. You put the darkness "appeared and spread" but is there a need for both those words? Generally darkness spreads. I know not of a darkness appearing and remaining still.

It is not necessary to put "at the sight of". It makes the action passive. Again, I want to hold back on telling you to change this because if you are trying to capture a certain archaic tone this sort of thing can work however being old fashioned does not give you carte blanche to write in a weak register.

You mention the same word, city, twice which is slightly repetitive while not grammatically problematic.

I would rewrite these sentences something like this:

At noon the darkness descended. Livestock, seized by fear, scattered and fled through the city gates.

^ Half the length, exactly the same information.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
In the noonday the darkness appeared and spread, quickly, the city in its path. Beasts and fowls were seized by fear at the sight of the darkness coming. So they scattered, many speeding on foot through the gates of the city.

There's nothing wrong with it grammatically, but some of the emphasis maybe could use a little improvement. Eg:

"The city in its path" is off on its own like an afterthought. And it's a bit tell-ish, which is fine if you are summarising, but you can show more detail here and thus avoid repeating "city". Also "darkness coming" could use more drama. "Coming black" maybe. Avoids further repetition. But also then, hasn't the darkness arrived?

Maybe the sentence beginning "So" could be merged with the previous one, to tie the bits together and remove unnecessary stuff; eg:

In the noonday the darkness appeared and spread quickly. Sentries and outrunners raised the alarm, declaring the city to be in its path while beasts and fowl scattered, seized by fear at the sight of the coming black, with many speeding on foot through the outer gates and into the crowded streets.

That's just how I would do it though. Context is everything, as is tone and voice, so it's just food for thought. Lastly I think the plural of fowl is fowl. But I could be wrong.
 

Bloggsworth

WF Veterans
Fowl is its own plural like sheep; apart from that it reminds me of 1940s Hollywood films trying to make movies about 14th century England - Trying too hard.

It is mid-day and darkness engulfs the city, birds and beasts, streaming through the gates of the city, flee before the unexpected night.


Though, it is likely that, in such a case animals would behave as they do during an eclipse; the birds fall silent and animals, the diurnal animals go to sleep and nocturnal, like rats, come out and forage. Animals have no belief system or imaginations, so have no reason to be scared of the dark...
 
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senecaone

Senior Member
They're in sum totally wrong. Prose trying to be Poetry or Poetry trying to be Prose. Get out of your head and speak naturally.

OK, that was a rather harsh criticism.
 

Jay Greenstein

Senior Member
You're thinking cinematically, and telling the reader what they would see, were they viewing the scene. But our medium doesn't support vision. So the phrasing raises the question: who is observing and reacting to this? And the answer is: no one. A faceless, voiceless, entity is providing data the reader hasn't been made to want.

Wouldn't it be made more meaningful if you present it through the senses and reactions of the being who is living through it, and making decisions based on it?

That aside, the presentation is awkward. "In the noonday," assumes that the noonday is something that can contain things like a vessel. And, darkness is an absence of light. So it cannot be "the" darkness in the context you've placed it. And why would birds and animals feel fear because it gets dark? Does a parrot scream and Rover yelp with fear if you turn the light off? Birds exist in the now. If it gets dark it gets dark. And I don't know about you, but I can't buy an animal bolting out of a city simply because it gets dark.

As an external storyteller, you assign actions as needed by the plot, and for dramatic effect, as you do here. And because you do you don't think through the ramifications and concequences of the actions. But told through the persona of the protagonist, the idea that it's getting dark quickly, so there's a mass exodus of animals that live in the city would make you recall that it didn't happen when we had the last solar eclipse, and rephrase/rethink.

In short, instead of telling the story, show the events through the persona of the protagonist.
 

Jack of all trades

Senior Member
Hello Lumino,

Without seeing in context I would hate to say for sure however I wonder if the fact you're asking indicates you know the answer!

"Noonday" is not an expression I have heard of ever. It didn't jolt my spellcheck so I assume it's legitimate English, however its one of those phrases like "in the dark of the night" that sounds unnecessarily decorative. Pretentious even. And it would probably be "at the noonday" since noon at least is a time, not a place one can be 'in'.

It sounds like this is about an eclipse, is that correct? If so the ominous tone works well, however it is a little generic. Again, your main problem is tautology/overwrite. It is not necessary to say "beasts and fowls' because a beast is just another word for an animal and a fowl is a type of animal. It is not necessary to put "speeding on foot" because unless the animals are driving cars we can assume they are doing so 'on foot'. You put the darkness "appeared and spread" but is there a need for both those words? Generally darkness spreads. I know not of a darkness appearing and remaining still.

It is not necessary to put "at the sight of". It makes the action passive. Again, I want to hold back on telling you to change this because if you are trying to capture a certain archaic tone this sort of thing can work however being old fashioned does not give you carte blanche to write in a weak register.

You mention the same word, city, twice which is slightly repetitive while not grammatically problematic.

I would rewrite these sentences something like this:

At noon the darkness descended. Livestock, seized by fear, scattered and fled through the city gates.

^ Half the length, exactly the same information.

noon·day /noondā/

noun

the middle of the day.

Noonday | Definition of Noonday by Merriam-Webster https://www.merriam-webster.com/ ... Definition of noonday. : midday. See noonday defined for English-language learners.


I am most familiar with it being used as an adjective, however, as in "the noonday sun".
 

Blackstone

Senior Member
noon·day /noondā/

noun

the middle of the day.

Noonday | Definition of Noonday by Merriam-Webster https://www.merriam-webster.com/ ... Definition of noonday. : midday. See noonday defined for English-language learners.


I am most familiar with it being used as an adjective, however, as in "the noonday sun".

Yes I did look it up after writing that post.

Nevertheless seems a pointless phrase. As Orwell said: "Never use a long word word when a shorter one will do"
 

Anita M Shaw

Friends of WF
In the noonday the darkness appeared and spread, quickly, the city in its path. Beasts and fowls were seized by fear at the sight of the darkness coming. So they scattered, many speeding on foot through the gates of the city

Also, with the last sentence, it makes it seem as if it's beasts and fowl being spoken of as speeding on foot. Which, what else would they use? Wings for the fowl, sure.

I don't have a problem with the noonday. But maybe At noonday would be better? And while I agree with those who say the animals and birds would just do the normal night time thing for them, if this is something unusual, then maybe they might be affected. But this would have to be shown to us.

The darkness appeared at noonday, spreading quickly though out the city. Such a blackness that could almost be felt, like cold fingers on a harsh winter's day. An ominous thing. Even the beasts and birds seemed to recognize it as such, and they chose to flee the place, merging with the stream of people who scurried out of the city, many on foot, leaving behind cars, buggies, other vehicles.

Need to know when in time this scene takes place to know what the people, who actually aren't mentioned in the original piece, left behind. Are they riding/driving horses or cars? The sentence seems to imply they are leaving something behind to flee on foot.

Just a little aside, my five year old granddaughter refers to night time as moon time. I have no idea why, except that it's the time when the moon is out. Must be aftermoon time now . . . 2 am. :)
 

Jack of all trades

Senior Member
Nevertheless seems a pointless phrase. As Orwell said: "Never use a long word word when a shorter one will do"

I disagree. Sometimes a certain emotion is being conveyed, which is done best with a longer word.

I object to the absolute nature of the advice. In writing, there are few absolutes. I know a couple members who would probably say there are never any absolutes, but that's an absolute.
 

Jack of all trades

Senior Member
I think there's a certain emotion that is trying to be conveyed, and that is missing from the rewrites. I could be wrong about the original intent. The OP hasn't responded to any responses.
 

Blackstone

Senior Member
I disagree. Sometimes a certain emotion is being conveyed, which is done best with a longer word.

I object to the absolute nature of the advice. In writing, there are few absolutes. I know a couple members who would probably say there are never any absolutes, but that's an absolute.

I disagree. Sometimes a certain emotion is being conveyed, which is done best with a longer word.
I object to the absolute nature of the advice. In writing, there are few absolutes. I know a couple members who would probably say there are never any absolutes, but that's an absolute.

Hello Jack!

I was under the impression that given the context of the feedback (via forum and based on two sentences without any context or background) it could be reliably assumed any feedback would be without 'absolutes'. Perhaps that was an over-expectation.

If you read my first post with the bulk of my feedback I made it quite clear that selecting obscure, archaic or otherwise oddball vocabulary and syntax for capturing a certain voice such as an 'old' one is absolutely acceptable in my opinion. So I'm not entirely sure where this view that I am employing absolutes comes from but I should like to dispel that at once. There are no absolutes here, none that I care about at least. I know what I know and if it sounds credible enough to be trusted on occasion that is wonderful.

It is certainly possible the gentleman (or lady) who requested the input chose that word to conjure a 'certain emotion'. It is, however, just as (if not more) likely they selected it simply because they encountered it somewhere, thought it sounded snappy and employed it immediately without self-critique. Such is the habit with many, many writers - including me!

You are correct that we do not know due to the gentleman (or lady) not choosing to further contribute to discussions about their own work however, and perhaps you may find this rather negative but I see it as common-sense to assume the less discerning approach.


In any case, it's not my responsibility to figure out whether it is justified by emotional considerations. The writer should have stated clearly upfront about the tone or any other stylistic effects they were attempting to capture if they wished for that to be taken into account. They are also free to disregard my opinion based on the same extenuating circumstances with no hard done. But otherwise its a meaningless archaism I'm afraid, sorry.

Hope that helps.

 
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Jack of all trades

Senior Member


Hello Jack!

I was under the impression that given the context of the feedback (via forum and based on two sentences without any context or background) it could be reliably assumed any feedback would be without 'absolutes'. Perhaps that was an over-expectation.

If you read my first post with the bulk of my feedback I made it quite clear that selecting obscure, archaic or otherwise oddball vocabulary and syntax for capturing a certain voice such as an 'old' one is absolutely acceptable in my opinion. So I'm not entirely sure where this view that I am employing absolutes comes from but I should like to dispel that at once. There are no absolutes here, none that I care about at least. I know what I know and if it sounds credible enough to be trusted on occasion that is wonderful.

It is certainly possible the gentleman (or lady) who requested the input chose that word to conjure a 'certain emotion'. It is, however, just as (if not more) likely they selected it simply because they encountered it somewhere, thought it sounded snappy and employed it immediately without self-critique. Such is the habit with many, many writers - including me!

You are correct that we do not know due to the gentleman (or lady) not choosing to further contribute to discussions about their own work however, and perhaps you may find this rather negative but I see it as common-sense to assume the less discerning approach.


In any case, it's not my responsibility to figure out whether it is justified by emotional considerations. The writer should have stated clearly upfront about the tone or any other stylistic effects they were attempting to capture if they wished for that to be taken into account. They are also free to disregard my opinion based on the same extenuating circumstances with no hard done. But otherwise its a meaningless archaism I'm afraid, sorry.

Hope that helps.


I was not directing the comment about emotion to specifically you. I posted that in the hopes it would get the OP to actually respond to this thread.

As for assuming everyone knows there's no absolutes? Read some of the other discussion threads.
 

lumino

Senior Member
Thanks for all the feedback. To answer your questions about my choice of words, while I was indeed aiming for a certain kind of style or voice, I was not paying as much attention to my diction as I should have. I choose the word noonday, because the phrase "In the noonday", seemed to sound good, but I did not realize that it was a grammatically invalid phrase, and that the proper form is "at noonday".

I also see from your feedback that I am not using much common sense in my writing. I am not so sure how to fix that, since I do not have a lot of world experience, which is what is needed for common sense.
 

Jay Greenstein

Senior Member
I am not so sure how to fix that, since I do not have a lot of world experience, which is what is needed for common sense.
That's easy. It's not that you're "doing something wrong," or lack worldly experience. It's that you're thinking in terms of the visual. But think about it. In the actual film, or real life, we see the myriad of events that make up the scene, as it unfolds. Can a few words of summation make up for that? No. Remember, traditionally, one picture is worth a thousand words. So while the mental image you held as you write generated the words, can those few words recreate the wealth of detail you envisioned in the reader's mind? No. Our medium doesn't support it. In life everything unfolds in parallel. In ther live version of the scene you present someone looks up at the sky and frowns. Every being in it knows the speed at which it unfolds, and reacts throughout, as they feel necessary. On the page we don't know how long it takes or the reactions throughout, because in print everything must be talked about serially, by a voice that holds no emotion not specified by punctuation and inherent word meaning. And that would take up pages of print for only a moment's time.

But obviously, people do write, and do it so vividly that it feels like we're living the story, moment-by-moment. So how do they do it? They tell the story from within the viewpoint of the character we call the protagonist. So instead of trying to give a picture of the whole scene, we focus on what matters to the protagonist, and know the scene as that character notices it. It is their story, after all, so what matters to them matters to the reader.

It's a very different approach to writing from what we learned in school, but that makes sense because there we learned to write to inform, which is what our future employers required. Fiction, though, is meant to entertain, so it has specialized tricks of the trade not mentioned in our schooling, just like any other profession.

So a bit of time spent picking up those tricks can be a huge help, and make the job a lot easier. And, they're not all that hard to find (though perfecting them, as with any field, does take time and practice). We have articles here on the site, and the Internet is filled with them. My personal suggestion is to visit the local library's fiction writing section for a variety of views, from successful writers, to teachers of note, to publishing pros.

And when there, my suggestion is to seek the names Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, or Debra Dixon on the cover. They're the best I've found at explaining the nuts and bolts of creating fiction that sings to the reader.

But whatever you do...hang in there and keep on writing.
 

Blackstone

Senior Member
I also see from your feedback that I am not using much common sense in my writing. I am not so sure how to fix that, since I do not have a lot of world experience, which is what is needed for common sense.

It's not an issue of common sense, honestly. There's not much that's common about this stuff. I can honestly say I am not trying to be kind when I say your sentences are not bad at all when compared to the vast majority of regular folks. The problem most regular folks don't aspire to be writers. So if anything we are talking 'writing sense' - sentences that cut the mustard as far as what people will pay to read.

Everybody's a critic, you know? I generally advocate simplicity in fiction. Why? Because it's easier, that's why. The trick is to know yourself. What words are you sure you know the meaning of versus just guessing? What style of writing closely mirrors the language of your inner thoughts? What kind of story/stories could you tell confidently without having to resort to either guesswork or trying to emulate another writer?

Honest self-assessment is hard. We all have our egos and none of us are ever as good as we want to be. The paradox of writing is that the harder you try to do it well the harder it gets to execute. My best scenes have been written in rare periods of absolute relaxation. It's easier said than done, of course, but don't stress and absolutely don't knock yourself over something as meaningless as 'life experience'. If you're old enough to pee in a toilet bowl you have enough life experience to write well.
 

Jack of all trades

Senior Member
Thanks for all the feedback. To answer your questions about my choice of words, while I was indeed aiming for a certain kind of style or voice, I was not paying as much attention to my diction as I should have. I choose the word noonday, because the phrase "In the noonday", seemed to sound good, but I did not realize that it was a grammatically invalid phrase, and that the proper form is "at noonday".

I also see from your feedback that I am not using much common sense in my writing. I am not so sure how to fix that, since I do not have a lot of world experience, which is what is needed for common sense.

My advice is to focus on writing the story. Have believable characters who have adventures and/or deal with obstacles. Use whatever words you like. Then put it aside for a few months. Write another book or other stories in the meantime. Then take a look at this one with fresh eyes. That's the time to edit.

As for common sense and life experience, I know some over sixties who lack common sense. And I wouldn't say the advice given here was about common sense, either. I saw advice advocating simpler sentence structure and word choice. That's a personal thing. Some writers like simpler words, others like flowery words. Writing is subjective, so it's all opinion, not fact.

I don't typically like flowery language, but for some reason your snippet didn't bother me. It left a lot of unanswered questions, but that's different.

Answer the questions in the rewrite. Leave the word choice worries for the editing phase.
 

Jay Greenstein

Senior Member
I object to the absolute nature of the advice.
Remember, what he said was[FONT=&quot], “Never use a long word where a short one will do.” The key is, "will do." That's far from a blanket, "replace long words with short ones.

Still, where it "will do," replacing a long word with one that reads more quickly makes sense. The fewer words, the and shorter the words, the faster the story action moves for the reader. The last thing we want to do is slow the narrative and tell our story in slow motion, just to sound literary, or to be pretty. But as always, the focus is, and must be, on entertaining the reader.[/FONT]
 
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