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We kept going until we reached a door. Finally! The corridor was deeper than I thought, like a tunnel. Or the bottom of the sea—the shelves and scrolls becoming the reef and algae that keeps the light from flooding in. A little unsettling. Good thing we were about to leave the place.

I'm not sure whether becoming is the correct choice here. I also thought of turning into but I'm not sure. Maybe I have to rephrase the whole sentence?

  • How about 'evoking' or 'conjuring'? – Claudia Castle Jan 7 '15 at 4:04
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    I think that this is off-topic as per this meta post but I'm not sure if it'd be okay on English. Leaving it for now until I find out. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Jan 8 '15 at 18:37
  • Can you define "correct"? What are you worried about, specifically? – Goodbye Stack Exchange Jan 8 '15 at 18:43
  • I think maybe if it's slanted to "what are the different implications of these two alternatives" and you are more specific about what you are trying to convey, it might be on-topic over at EL&U. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 8 '15 at 18:47
  • Off-topic, because this question is asking for very specific help with his writing, rather than asking a general-interest question about writing or metaphors. – dmm Mar 3 '15 at 22:37
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I think a better way is just to go straight for the metaphor without any helper verb. Here it is with a few other modifications to streamline the prose:

The corridor was deeper than I thought, as dim and hazy as the bottom of the sea. Whole reefs of shelves and scrolls kept the light from flooding in.

This introduces the sea metaphor at the end of the first sentence (first as a simile, to let the readers get their feet wet, so to speak), and extends it wholesale in the second.

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"becoming" implies an actual change in the form or appearance of the shelves and scrolls. Perhaps you would be better served with...

"serving as"

or

"embodying"

  • Well, isn't becoming acting as a metaphor here? Like it became a nightmare? – Alexandro Chen Jan 6 '15 at 8:25
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    I think that would depend on how literal and specific the surrounding writing is. Reading your exerpt out of context, and based on the nature of your question, I assumed you were wondering why "becoming" sounded out of place in your usage. It is perfectly acceptable but if there is anything wrong with it as a word choice, I would suggest that it is too literal, ie. implying actual change. In the case of it became a nightmare, nightmare itself is an abstract concept, so it softens the verb. There really isn't anything wrong with your original text. Just artistry issues. – Henry Taylor Jan 6 '15 at 9:00
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Becoming works fine here, as a metaphor its valid enough and anything longer would bog down the prose. But I agree with Henry that out of context of other similar metaphors in your writing it could imply actual change, and distract the reader.

However, I believe that the suggested alternatives are too heavy handed and would only bog down the prose further; they're too formal.

Luckily I think you could just as easily remove it entirely, as you're describing how something looks, rather than what it's doing:

the bottom of the sea—shelves and scrolls the reef and algae that keeps the light from flooding in.

This approach simplifies the prose and stops the metaphor from implying actual change. (Note I've removed the leading the as well, to avoid confusion.)

  • Thanks a lot! Just one thing: isn't the shelves and scrolls the reef and algae confusing to read? The first time I read it I read it like: the shelves and the scrolls and the reef and the algae – Alexandro Chen Jan 6 '15 at 10:33
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    @AlexandroChen, You could make it clearer by scrapping the leading "the": the bottom of the sea—shelves and scrolls the reef and algae that keeps the light from flooding in. Actually, I prefer that, I'm going to update my answer :) – CLockeWork Jan 6 '15 at 14:18

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