1. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    Sentence Fragments

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by DvnMrtn, Apr 16, 2009.

    Lately I've been reading a lot of contemporary fiction that is loaded with intentional sentence fragments. I find that although it's grammatically incorrect it has a better sound to it. I think it's effective because it feels like something that somebody would actually say or think. An author who does this to a great deal is Chuck Palahniuk (best known for Fight Club) Lately I've been intentionally constructing sentences that are fragmented for this very reason and I'm quite satisfied with them.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    I think it depends what you're writing. Dialogue is, for me, something where the normal rules of grammar don't really apply; if someone speaks in a certain way then that is the way you need to write it. The same is true for working in the first person since that is a form of dialogue writing in its self.

    Things are different when it comes to writing in prose as sentence fragments can sometimes be off putting or not fully convey the message.
     
  3. pinelopikappa
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    pinelopikappa Senior Member

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    You mean like an inner monologue, a dream, first person etc?
     
  4. OneMoreNameless
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    OneMoreNameless Contributing Member

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    You could pull it off naturally enough with 3rd person subjective too. It's really just another style thing, so whether it's a good idea or not is a matter of opinion.
     
  5. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    Yes, you're right. I suppose I tend to think of the third person as omniscient... I suppose it depends who the third person is :D
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    People speak in fragments, so no worries in dialogue. Outside dialogue, it really depends on what you hope to achieve. Does it fit the pace and the tone? Does it make sense?
     
  7. Dr. Doctor
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    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

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    I ****ing love Chuck Palahniuk's weird little sentence fragments. There is an endless amount of charm in them. It gives the writing a very odd, individualistic touch.
     
  8. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    I don't intentionally write them, but I often find the grammar check on word pulls me up for them.

    I like the 'ignore' option. :)
     
  9. David Forbes
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    David Forbes Member

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    Fragments are fine if used correctly to set the proper tone for the story. Read James Ellroy's AMERICAN TABLOID or THE COLD SIX THOUSAND for a crash course on the use of fragments in the narrative itself.

    Dave
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No one should ever use sentence fragments when writing fiction.

    Right. And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. In Death Valley.

    Sentence fragments, when used judicously, can add punch to your writing. They stand out, both for their brevity and the fact they step out of the rules. Overusing them can make the writing seem choppy and clumsy, but they do add spice to your writing.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    most, if not all good writers use fragments... and not just for dialog... it's just a normal facet of writing... but when you write, they should occur 'naturally' and not be forced, just for the sake of having a fragment here or there...
     
  12. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I occasionally use them if I think it sounds better or if what I'm trying to say is better expressed in a fragment. Moments of confusion and quick action often go together well with fragments.

    To point out an example I saw in another thread, grammatically correctness though an excellent general rule can be forgone if something can be gained. Example: "To boldly go where no one has gone before" is grammatically incorrect but sounds better then "to go boldly where no one has gone before."
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not really incorrect, grammatically... the adverb can appear before or after what it's modifying, though in many cases, it won't read as well that way...
     
  14. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Would someone kindly give me an example of these famous sentence fragments?

    I am, in honesty, unaware of any instance where sentence fragments are intentionally used to add variation or meaning.
     
  15. OneMoreNameless
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    OneMoreNameless Contributing Member

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    Words. Everywhere. I had to read them. Had to. Everything depended on it. But I couldn't. Too many. Oh god. *Protagonist collapses, twitching slightly.*
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Did you look at my earlier post in the thread? I did use fragments in the second paragraph to illustrate my point.
     
  17. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I love using sentence fragments when it's appropriate to do so--there's one story I posted on here (Moonlight) where I used a few and someone pointed them out. I didn't say anything except that they were there intentionally...I was using them to create a tenser atmosphere. And Chuck Palanhuik is awesome :-D I love his books. Although, I'd have to say Lullaby and Choke are better than Fight Club.

    ~Lynn
     
  18. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Robert Ludlum uses them a lot, so does Octavia Butler, or did.

    I notice she drops the final and a lot. It was dark, cold, wet.
     
  19. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    . . . oh.
     
  20. WrongWriter
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    WrongWriter Banned

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    The subject of sentence fragments is an excellent example of the divide between "grammar" and "good writing".

    The is much more fiction containing sentence fragments than fiction without them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using them in speech or narration. Not good, not bad, not special case.

    However, it's ungrammatical.

    See, fiction doesn't have to be grammatical. It most certainly doesn't have to abide by any "style manual" like academic of journalistic writing does.

    You can't apply rules like that to Joyce or Burroughs, or Twain or yourself.

    So does that mean you can just do whatever spelling or construction you feel like (as somebody is already limbering up their fingers to shout). No. What it means is knowing the difference.

    And the best guide is not a grammar book, or a writing book, or what some gimlet-eyed maven on the internet says: it's the common environment of successful published books.
     
  21. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    nicely put
     

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