1. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Flash of Light

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by GoldenGhost, Apr 13, 2013.

    Came across a curious problem.. Which is correct/better/incorrect? An older woman in a business suit and heels clopped by, talking on her phone, carrying a black briefcase, which glinted in the noon light. Or: An older woman in a business suit and heels clopped by, talking on her phone, carrying a black briefcase, which glinted the noon light.
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The first is correct: "glinted IN the noon light." I've never seen the second construction, "glinted the noon light." I like it, and on one of my more fanciful days I'd probably use it, but I don't think it's technically correct.
     
  3. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    The second version came about after I had my character only notice a single flash of light, not repeated flashes, as in 'glinting' or, what I believe to be happening in the first version, 'glinted in the noon light.' So, I figured, if he only saw one flash, it might be alright to write, glinted the noon light.. But I was completely lacking confidence in the usage.
     
  4. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    Which glinted is a bit clumsy. You've moved from past tense (clopped) to present infinitives (talking, carrying.) Glinted ought to go the same way, so that it reads:

    'talking on her phone, carrying a black briefcase glinting in the noon light.'

    That's one option I'd consider.
     
  5. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Ah... good catch.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    neither one is good... 'which' should be 'that'...

    and it still needs work, since 'glinted in the noon light' is nonsensical... plus, you're trying to cram way too much into one poor sentence...
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. Constructing a sentence should not resemble stuffing a sausage.

    But in addition to the unwieldy sentence aggregation, the word choice suffers from a common malady worse than the completely wrong word: the just-that-much-off word.

    A completely wrong word is quickly shrugged off. Like tripping over a curb, you quickly recover your balance and move on. A word that is jussst a little bit wrong is likne stepping in a mass of warm bubble gum. It tugs at you at every step.

    The dictionary definition seems defendable. It sorta means what you want, but the fine shades of meaning are totally off. So it continues to hold the reader back, even more thn the totally wrong word.

    It's the difference between having a broad vocabiulary and mastering a vocanbular, even a smaller one.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    'Glinted in the noon light' is not nonsensical. I haven't been half the places you've been, maia, but I've seen things glint in the noon light plenty of times. The words made me think the black briefcase had brass hardware, but that's okay. And it's not too much for one sentence. Sure, it needs rephrasing to get the rhythm right, but there's no reason one rich, mighty sentence can't hold everything the OP put into it. I find that if a sentence like this is broken up into several shorter sentences (assuming there are no long sentences around them), the prose starts to sound like baby talk. It gets annoying quickly.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, 'which' is used correctly here.

    It's a non-restrictive clause, meaning the bit about glinting in the light could be left out, and the meaning of the sentence would remain the same. Non-restrictive clauses are never introduced with 'that.' (She's carrying a briefcase which just happens to glint in the light. The shiny surface is not necessary to make the meaning of the sentence clear.)

    It would change to 'that,' if the woman had two black briefcases, one with a dull finish and the other one shiny. (She is carrying the shiny one today, so she's carrying the briefcase 'that' glints in the light - as opposed to the other one that doesn't!)
     
  10. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    What makes it nonsensical? Why is the sentence crammed with too much?

    Is it because the light is what glints? Not the briefcase? as in: The noon light glinted off the briefcase?

    How would you both have written it better?
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I wouldn't have written the sentence at all. The part you are struggling over would have been the first to go.

    Sometimes the solution is to scrap it and start over. I'm sorry, but in this case, I don't see a Band-Aid solution, particularly given that without context, I wouldn't know what is really worth keeping.

    That's why I discussed it in general terms. "Scrap the whole thing," though an accurate and concise summary of my recommendation, sounds too harsh. But I think you need to step back and decide what it is you really need to convey, and say just that.

    Vocabulary is the other part of it. Although technically you can say the briefcase glinted in sunlight, it's very weak. Light glints from a surface; the surface glinting is a poor, secondary usage. The real core meaning is to rebound briefly. That is what I mean by usages which are defendable, but a bit off. I'd rather say an object gleams in the light. And noon light is just plain trying too hard to sneak time of day into an already overworked sentence.

    I also wouldn't use 'clopped' unless I were trying to compare the woman to a horse, like a bad Camilla joke. Again, a word choice that is just a few degrees off course.

    I don't suppose you'll find this more helpful, but then again...
     
  12. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    No, it's slightly more helpful, because you've at least given some insight as to what the problem really is, and it's the very sentence itself, which is beyond the mere usage of 'glint.' With that said, given the thought or description that I'm attempting to communicate, do you think you could provide an example of how you'd write it? If you need to, do so in multiple sentences, using words you find more fitting. That way, I can compare my attempt to a success, and evaluate the problem from there, if you wouldn't mind?
     
  13. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    Not knowing the context, clopped may well not be the best choice. But until then, I rather like it. Conjures up an image of shoes slighly too large, or heels being scuffed as the older woman walks.

    Perhaps she's a Rosa Klebb character, with hidden poisonous blades in her toes. :eek:
     
  14. jannert
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    I know I got gubbed when I brought up this point in other threads, but, when giving a critique, you really DO need to know context before you decide what should and should not be kept in any piece. Just because a point seems to have no relevance in a single sentence exerpted from a longer piece, doesn't mean it shouldn't be there. The author is describing a scene, and you won't know till the end of the story which details are important to the story and which ones aren't. If this woman's shiny briefcase is important to the story, then the fact that it's shining, glinting, reflecting or whatever in this scene may well be crucial. It's not relevant to criticize its inclusion, at this point.

    The questioner was asking whether it was better to say 'glinted in the noon light' rather than 'glinted the noon light.'

    Hmmm. Apparently the briefcase only glints once? How about something along the lines of 'a single glint reflected from her black briefcase' - worked in somehow? The idea of a single glint isn't implied in either of the original two phrases.

    By the way, I love the word 'clopped' as used here. I was sipping coffee at Costa's in Glasgow Central rail station the other day, and that's exactly the noise some of these women's stylish, but awkward shoes made as they went past the window. They were carrying briefcases and yakking on their phones as well. The picture came to me instantly, when I read this sentence.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just a plain black surface wouldn't be glinting...

    and as for your choices, 'glinted the' makes no sense...
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    I realize that I'm not Cogito :), but I think that the rewrite would depend on the reason for, and significance of, the details that you present.

    For example, maybe I'm describing a grubby hole-in-the-wall restaurant and emphasizing that it's so good that all types eat there - teenagers, homeless, prosperous business types. Maybe I'm describing that same restaurant but the prosperous business type is very much out of place there. Maybe the character usualy works in Silicon Valley where the billionaires wear blue jeans, and is adjusting to conventional business wear and looking at this conventional businesswoman with amazement. (A briefcase rather than a computer backpack; sheesh!) Maybe my character has just emerged from a scarey smoky basement gambling den to the sunny outdoors and is relieved to see the normality of the financial district, swarming with suits and briefcases.

    As for the woman, what's the general impression of all of this business regalia? Does she look confident, powerful, expensive, dangerous? Alternatively, does she look tired, as if the business uniform is wearing her rather than being worn by her? Does the viewpoint character disapprove of women working, so that business wear involving a skirt is inherently distasteful to him? Does the briefcase particularly draw the viewpoint character's attention because it contains documents intended to attack or defend the viewpoint character? (Is she the character's lawyer?) Or is the woman nothing but scene setting and we can compress her description?

    But getting down to a briefcase interacting with light, I think of:

    ...a shiny black leather briefcase.
    ...an expensive-looking briefcase, all shiny black leather and glittering brass fittings.
    ...only the glint of sunlight from her briefcase still visible in the crowd.
    ...she was all wool and leather--an expensive business suit, glittering black heels, and a shiny black briefcase.
    ...she looked old, out of place, wearing a business suit and heels and carrying a briefcase, of all things! And not the canvas messenger bag kind of briefcase, no--this one was boxy, black leather, with brass fittings that glittered in the sun.
     
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  17. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Off topic:

    This post addresses one of my previous replies where I said maia was not being helpful. I wasn't really considering what I was saying, or the impact the post may have, and I would like to publicly voice an apology. She does a lot for the members of this website, both on and off the forum, and especially does a lot to help me.

    maia,

    I'm sorry.
     
  18. edamame
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    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

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    Seconding "glinted in."

    That said, you might want to break the sentence into two separate ones since there's a lot of visual information and we're meeting the woman for the first time. That's just my opinion of course. Hope I've been helpful.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just 'light' wouldn't necessarily 'glint'... what would read better and make better sense:

    '...the noon sun glinted off...'

    fyi, 'glinted off' pulls twice the google hits as 'glinted in'...

    however, have you ever seen any business person carrying a shiny black briefcase?...

    i never have and i lived i NYC, where there are probably more briefcases per capita than any other city on the planet... i've also jetted to many of the world's major cities over the past 40+ years and never saw one on a plane, or the street...

    that said, it's possible some hi-falutin' designer has turned out a patent leather number, but you'd have to add 'patent leather' or 'shiny vinyl' or whatever, to your description, to make the 'glinted' bit work...
     
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