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Old 10-27-2010, 01:03 AM   #1
GraceKrispy
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Sentence Fragments?

This whole book-reviewing thing has been eye-opening for me in many ways. Based on feedback from authors, I sometimes find myself dwelling on some point, and then I post a question on here to get others' advice!

So here is my current "thing": I recently reviewed a suspense/thriller. One thing I commented on in my review was the prevalence of dependent clauses/sentence fragments masquerading as sentences. As is my standard, I put the review on Goodreads and Amazon, and the author commented on both reviews to give a little feedback of his own (which I think is a great way for an author to clarify his or her motivations, etc).

Since he did not post his comment on my blog review, I updated my review to add a bit about his feedback and a further comment of my own. Basically, he was indicating that his sentence fragments were purposeful as a technique to add to the plot of a thriller- quick, little jabs. My response? I actually really like quick, little jabs and think they add to a story such as this, but I felt many of his were more like sentences missing a noun. They didn't feel quick or little to me, they felt like unfinished sentences. I did not post that in response to his comments on my other reviews, as I don't think it's necessary or proper, but I did put it on my blog because I wanted to explain my own thoughts on it.

So I guess what I'm asking here (FINALLY, she gets to the question! ) is: Do you notice sentence fragments such as these when you read? Do you like them in stories like these, and is there a limit to how frequently you want to see them? Do they have to be short fragments or does length matter?

I guess my real question is whether I'm alone in this (or crazy).

Where I think it's not great:
She was the one that had let them down with her rush to publish. With her overwhelming need for recognition

Where I think it's ok:
The door flew open and there he stood. Tek. No smile today. All business.

Last edited by GraceKrispy; 10-27-2010 at 02:17 AM.
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Old 10-27-2010, 01:10 AM   #2
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I always notice them. Some, I appreciate. Some are overdone, losing their impact. Others, and the example you gave would be one of them, just sound like bad writing.
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Old 10-27-2010, 01:56 AM   #3
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huh, I listed four examples, two I thought bad, two I thought "ok" and I only see one! What the heck...?

Ok, added another one.

Last edited by GraceKrispy; 10-27-2010 at 02:17 AM.
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Old 10-27-2010, 02:18 AM   #4
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Wellll... based on the one example, which isn't good to go on. I can see the 'stylistic' point, but my personal opinion would be that he's maybe not using them effectively.

I'd write it more like this:

"She was the one that had let them down with her rush to publish. Her need for recognition. Her desire for revenge against Daddy. She let them all down and they would all suffer."
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Old 10-27-2010, 02:28 AM   #5
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Bad writing is like pornography: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.

It seems fairly obvious where someone is writing for a specific effect and where they just don't know how to use their tools, even if they think they do. You see it with commas, too: they don't know what they're actually supposed to do with them, so they throw them in every time they take a breath when they read the sentence, and figure that'll work (it doesn't).
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Old 10-27-2010, 08:08 AM   #6
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I would agree with your analysis. The first one is a list of things in virtue of which she has let them down, the second item on that list does not need to be made a separate sentence. The author might have a point though - what effect does the writing have on you, is that effect consistent with what is being portrayed, (for example, a writer might write confusingly, which might evoke in you a sense of confusion, which might be consistent with the confusion experienced by one of the characters being portrayed).
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Old 10-27-2010, 08:39 AM   #7
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A classic example of a brilliant use of fragments is the opening two paragraphs of Dickens' "Bleak House":

Quote:
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.
A wonderfully atmospheric description.
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Old 10-27-2010, 08:52 AM   #8
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I do think (like any tool a writer uses) The sentence fragment has a time and place.

I find fragments to be an exciting way to captivate a reader before or during a scene with a high amount of action.

But I also agree that too many sentence fragments will eventually fall under the category of poor writing, no matter how they are used.
Sometimes it is even a case of lazy writing.
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Old 10-27-2010, 10:24 AM   #9
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I write the other way around. I write long run-on sentences without much punctuation for action scenes and... Short. Often. One. Word. Sentences when I want to simulate something happening in slow motion.
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Old 10-27-2010, 10:39 AM   #10
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I notice the fragments but what bothers me even more than the fragments is treating a person as an inanimate object. I always pause over phrases such as "She was the one that had let them down. . ."; in my book, it should be "She was the one who had let them down. . . ."

If it is in character speak, I find it less bothersome -- after all, people often use that when they mean who -- but when it is not in character speak, I don't like it.
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Old 10-27-2010, 10:43 AM   #11
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I have used sentence fragments to show that a character's thoughts are jumbled, or the character is in shock. It can be effective, but you have to follow the rules most of the time so breaking them is effective.
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Old 10-27-2010, 10:54 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
A classic example of a brilliant use of fragments is the opening two paragraphs of Dickens' "Bleak House":



A wonderfully atmospheric description.
That book - especially the opening - has influenced some of my writing far too much. Must re-read it again soon

And the third paragraph uses lighted instead of lit (in reference to another thread )
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Old 10-27-2010, 10:56 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShortNCuddlyAm View Post
That book - especially the opening - has influenced some of my writing far too much. Must re-read it again soon
It's next on my list of Dickens to be proof-read, so you might want to wait a few weeks and then download it from here. I corrected an error in the PG text that I quoted above: PG says that the fog is "deified", rather than "defiled", in the second paragraph .
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Old 10-27-2010, 11:01 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
It's next on my list of Dickens to be proof-read, so you might want to wait a few weeks and then download it from here. I corrected an error in the PG text that I quoted above: PG says that the fog is "deified", rather than "defiled", in the second paragraph .
I'll do that

(And now I can't stop giggling over deified fog)
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Old 10-27-2010, 11:06 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShortNCuddlyAm View Post
I'll do that

(And now I can't stop giggling over deified fog)
I must confess that I read the book a couple of times without realising that it was an error; you'll find it in pretty much every "free" version of "Bleak House", since they all seem to use the PG text as source.
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