Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Style: Sentences & Sentence Fragments

One thing I won't be doing in my latest edit, or anything else I'm rewriting, is getting rid of sentence fragments. This is one of the things that every editor and all reviewers have noted in my writing for the five years I've been asking for feedback.

Every book I read contains verbless sentences, usually to good account. Jeff Vandermeer's Finch is a recent find. A brilliant fantasy if you enjoy noir, detective fiction and fungi.

The first sentence reads:

Finch, at the apartment door, breathing heavy from five flights of stairs, taken fast.

Though there are two verbs, breathing and taken, they are the wrong forms to make this a complete sentence. But the effects are a sense of immediacy and the feeling that you, the reader, are right there at the apartment door with Finch.  

The second sentence has a couple more no-no's. Two, mark that well, two passive verbs! How often are we told passive verbs are not allowed on the first page?

The message that'd brought him from the station was already dying in his hand. 

I hope sincerely that you ignored the passive verbs to wonder how a message could be dying? 

Red smear on a limp circle of green fungal paper that had minutes before squirmed clammy.

Another sentence with a missing word, an indefinite article at its beginning this time, the third sentence describes the physical attributes of the message. Who's got time to worry about the incomplete-ness of the sentence when faced with red smear, limp circle, green fungal paper, and squirmed clammy to try and make sense of?

The fourth group of words is a complete actual sentence. 

Now he had only the door to pass through, marked with the gray caps' symbol. 

In the first section there are six complete sentences out of a total of twenty groups of words that some would say are masquerading as sentences. 

But not me. I love what you can do with incomplete sentences. But I have a question of all the people who are still saying that incomplete sentences are an anathema to good writing. What have you been reading lately? 

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