Fragments – Your thoughts?

What are your thoughts about sentence fragments? I admit that I’ve been a stickler for complete sentences for a long time. With the exception of dialogue, since we rarely talk in complete sentences, I’ve always been very loyal to that grammar rule. I like complete sentences. I even crave them in my reading. However, it appears that I am in the minority in this.

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I’m finding many authors appear to embrace fragments.  It’s made me rethink my opinion. Is there a place for them? My initial conclusion is that fragments can be used effectively for impact, such as, “It was cold in the boardroom. Too cold.” This creates an impression that something is amiss, and it has more impact because the two thoughts are separated by that period, rather than a comma. The period tells the brain to stop and take a breath.

The problem, I would suggest, is the overuse of fragments. I recently read a book that had more fragments than complete sentences. It was simply laziness on the part of the author. Often, by adding a comma, he could have turned his fragments into real sentences without adding words or changing meaning or even diminishing impact.

As fellow authors and fellow readers, what are your thoughts? Is this grammar rule outdated and one to be ignored, sometimes ignored, or always adhered to. I’d like to know what you think.

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Really?

I opened my email today to see a notice from Writer’s Digest. I enjoy the magazine. I also receive a fair amount of emails from them. So, as I was in a hurry to work on my latest book, I almost deleted the email without opening it up. Luckily, I didn’t. It was a follow-up to my notice of winning an honorable mention for an article I submitted. If you open this post on my webpage, it will be the image you see at the right – my bragging rights.

Let this be a cautionary tale. As a writer, one must be a braggart! This is not something that I am comfortable with, but I understand that it’s necessary. So, with those thoughts in mind, I set about adding the seal Writer’s Digest sent me. They were even kind enough to send it in two forms (.tiff and .png). I’ve heard of .tiff files. However, I hate to admit my lack of knowledge about .png files, because my early career was in computers. But be that as it may, I set about to add said seal to my webpage.

I won’t bore you with the steps I tried and failed at. Maddening doesn’t even come close. I even googled how to do it, and still it didn’t work. As you can see, I’ve added images before. I kept thinking, “How hard can this be?” Apparently – Hard!

So, an hour later, I finally succeeded – all so I could brag about something that I’ve already bragged about. Geesh! I’m not sure what to say now, other than now that’s it’s there, I’m never taking it down!

 

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Learning patience

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, but before I started my first novel, The Apple of My Eye, they were all short stories. I’ve had to learn patience writing something longer, and it’s been difficult. I always want to hurry and get to the end – to the crux of the whole thing. With my first book and second one, my work-in-progress, I couldn’t wait, and skipped ahead to write the last chapter or two before everything in the middle was done.

But, I’ve learned something along the way about patience. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. I’m happy with the way The Apple of My Eye turned out, and I understand better that complete strangers will be reading what I write. So, as I work on When I Was Seven, I want to get it right. I finished the first draft and started to edit, but then I stopped to read an insightful book on editing. Now my editing is becoming more fine-tuned, as is the novel.

However, something still wasn’t perfect. I stopped editing for reasons I couldn’t articulate, choosing instead to read other novels – voraciously. Some of them were admittedly better than others, but they all helped me recognize what I needed to change in my novel. It’s not the story itself, but the voice with which I tell it. As I caught hold of the vision of what it can become, I’m surprised to realize that I am not bothered by the extra time it will take. Elevating the story will be worth it.

I’m just grateful this is my second novel and not my first. I never would have had the patience the first time around to write When I Was Seven the way it should be written. I hope you find the wait to be worth it, too.

 

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Spinning a tale …

I find it interesting that we talk about “spinning” a tale, as if we were spiders, creating an intricate web of story lines and characters. I’ve thought on this quite often lately, every time I walk past my resident web builder.

He’s a nasty looking spider, to be sure, but a harmless one. (Trust me, I’ve checked.) For whatever reason, he has made his home in our breezeway, next to our garage. A window graces each side of a door leading outside, and he has picked the left one as his own. I can’t bring myself to wipe away all his hard work. His web spans the window and has even moved onto the adjacent wall.

This web is now populated with a variety of flying bugs, all wrapped and store neatly for future consumption. Although I wonder about him because he never seems to eat. You would think that, from time to time at least, one of the bugs would go missing! But they don’t! I wonder what he’s waiting for.

I’ve met many a person who says, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” I’ve met many a writer with more ideas than they know what to do with (myself included). Well, what are you waiting for? Take one of those ideas and dive right in – spin your tale!

 

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Rules, what rules?

Let me start by saying I am not a rule breaker, usually. I follow the laws of the land and the commandments of God. These things make sense to me and bring order to life. But since becoming a full-time writer I’ve discovered a whole cadre of “rules” about my profession. It’s somewhat unsettling to step into a parlor you think you will enjoy only to discover that someone has posted rules of conduct you must follow or risk … what, I don’t know. Suddenly, you are ill at ease, fearful of breaking some sacred trust.

Apparently, back in 1928 “Twenty rules for writing detective stories” was published in American Magazine. (You can find the list at: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/vandine.htm.) Writers took these seriously, except for maybe one of the most famous detective story writers of all-time, Agatha Christie. I have read that she broke every one of them. Although I can’t personally vouch for that, I can easily recognize many that she violated. For instance, if you have read her books you will recognize that sometimes the murderer was actually a group of murderers (violates rule #12), or that the investigator might actually be involved in the crime (rule #4). More recent authors break rule #3 on a regular basis which states that there should be no love interest in a detective story.

You may have figured out my motive by now. By explaining away Agatha Christie’s flagrant disregard for rules, I have justified my own neglect of such things. Take a moment to read my short story, “Grandpa.” (https://maryellenbramwell.com/short-stories/)

Now, let me tell you the rules I have broken in the writing of said story. Supposedly, one is never to start a short story with the weather. Hmmm … even after learning this rule, I refused to change my story. I like the feeling it gives you of heat and exhaustion; I like the metaphor of wanting or needing respite from current conditions. Kurt Vonnegut gave 8 tips for writing a good short story. One of them is “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.” (http://www.openculture.com/2015/04/kurt-vonneguts-8-tips-on-how-to-write-a-good-short-story.html) If you read my story, clearly I violated this – and blatantly at that. I do not apologize for this. It was my intention from the start to mislead.

There, I said it. I intended to mislead. I willfully rebelled against the “rules.” However, may I borrow Robert Frost’s words and say:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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What day is it?

Years ago, I worked at an accounting office. From February to April we were busy filing income taxes for our clients, both business and personal. Tax season always left me confused as to what year it was. The new year was barely upon us when we were filing taxes for the year just ended. To complicate matters, we would look at previous years’ taxes for guidance. With all those different years in my head, it would be May before I was certain what the current year was.

I thought this confusion was simply a phenomenon of working in an accounting office. I was wrong. Recently, I’ve been writing an educational newsletter. It covers topics related to math and science for elementary school children. I just completed December’s issue. In the process of writing it, my editor and I had many a discussion about what activities or science experiments might be appropriate for the weather of December. For instance, a science experiment that requires soil might be problematic since the ground is often frozen, making digging up dirt difficult at best. As I wrote each piece of the newsletter I was conscious of the season, considering its ramification on any activity I proposed.

After working intensely on this newsletter over the course of several days, I would emerge from the basement and venture outside. Every time I did, I was shocked to realize it was still summer, and it was hot! I would shake my head and laugh at myself, only to find myself doing it again the next day. I imagine if I were writing a book with a seasonal setting I would be in the same boat. Our minds sure are funny things!

What about you? Do you have a job or activity that tricks your mind into thinking things are not quite what they are? Feel free to comment with your own experiences.

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Latest review

Take a minute to read the latest review of The Apple of My Eye. It’s a great and fair review.

http://cgfewston.me/2015/07/13/the-apple-of-my-eye-2014-by-mary-ellen-bramwell-the-suspicious-nature-of-heroism/

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