1. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Sentence Fragments in Fiction

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by penhobby, Jul 17, 2008.

    I learned from Maia that it is sometimes okay to use a sentence fragment in a story, but I can't think of how it could be used correctly. I am afraid I'm too impatient to wait till tonight to ask her. I would like to see an example if possible.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Example:

    I thought we would be friends forever. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe not.

    The last sentence is a fragment, but it has more impact when separated from the other sentence. Like all style choices in writing fiction, it's all about use, and not overuse.
     
  3. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Oh okay, it does have a strong sound to it.

    *sighs* I've been doing this all wrong. :(
    Oh well, live and learn.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If that's not the definition of what life is all about, then I don't know what is. :rolleyes:


    What have you been doing? Maybe you are not wrong at all...? Can you give an example?
     
  5. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Yeah,(*embarrassed*) one of the stories I posted here has them all through it. The really bad part is, I didn't even know it. My grammar is actually that bad. But on a brighter note, knowing you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

    Thanks for the example Wrey.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The result of using a sentence fragment is that it grabs attention. If you do it all the time, it's as bad as loading your prose with exclamation marks.

    But used properly, sentence fragments can very effectively make the reader sit up and take notice.

    For example, the detective arrives at yet another arson scene, and is looking around, trying to see what looks out of place. He sees no familiar faces in the crowd from the previous fires, no one seems to be behaving oddly among the spectators. There are only six cars in the adjacent parking lot. The silver Mercedes. He has seen that silver Mercedes before.

    You see how the fragment The silver Mercedes. pulls you to a sudden stop, just as the detective's attention zoomed in on it the moment his eyes fell on it? Then the repetition in the next sentence reinforces it.
     
  7. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Yes, it looks great and reads well. But I'm not skilled enough yet to apply them to my stories. I think for now, I'll just leave them alone. Once again, thanks for sharing your abundant knowledge Cogito. Wish I could steal some, oops, sorry I didn't mean to say that. :D
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Don’t be so hard on yourself, Pen! English grammar is no easy thing. Take it from me! I speak four languages fluently, and English is, by far, one of the most difficult to truly master.

    In the community of interpreters, we give languages a numerical value for difficulty in learning by a non-native speaker: 1-2-3-4-5. One being the easiest, five being the hardest. The numbers change depending on the native language of the person in question. For example, Italian is considered easier to learn for someone who already speaks a romance language than someone who speaks a non-romance language and the numeration would change accordingly.

    English is a category 5 language from nearly every other language!!
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    some of your fragments may be ok, pen... without seeing them in context, i can't say if they are, or not...

    and you don't have to wait till 'tonight'... you can email me now, which is 8:30am here, or even a couple of hours earlier and would have gotten a near-instant reply... i'm online from 6am-ish to 7-8pm every single day and reply to email as it comes in, unless it comes overnight, in which case, i reply as soon as i go online...

    i have to admit that you wouldn't have gotten an instant reply if you'd emailed me 5 hours ago, which is when you started the thread, though!... ;-)

    hugs, m
     
  10. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Yes thank you Maia, I've been dying all day. I have a million questions. E-mailing now!
     
  11. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I think context determines whether fragments are acceptable.

    The examples above are from the character's thoughts. Fragments are OK there, I think, as well as in dialogue.

    In straight description, I wouldn't use them.

    I'd say the same thing about beginning sentences with conjunctions.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    But you should try using them sometime for effect. Really.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. In fictional prose and narrative, use of these techniques does have its place to impart tone and mood. We’re not talking about writing a dissertation.
     
  14. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Maia explained them to me last night. She had me identify sentence fragments and rewrite them as sentences. She then had me decide if the sentence or the fragment would work best in a story-like setting. I have a whole new understanding of them now. Maia's a genius. I'm not the easiest person to teach, but I am actually getting this stuff, for the first time ever.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yup, Maia's a gem. She has a lot of experience, both in writing and in mentoring. She doesn't sugar coat things, but is well worth listening to.
     
  16. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    No, she doesn't, but that's okay. I tend to get a bit gung hoe about things, and she comes along and bursts that bubble, bringing me back down where I need to be to learn.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    gosh a'mighty!...:eek: didn't expect this thread to turn into a blush-bringing tout, but thanks for the kind words, friends... :redface:... i'm just glad that my virgo nit-picking helps more 'n it hurts...

    i agree that you should use them [judiciously, of course], if you want your writing to be reader-friendly... being too rigid about such rule-bending will only result in your writing being the same...
     

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