Writing in Sentence Fragments

by Intermittent Rain ~ June 16th, 2014. Filed under: Thoughts about Writing.


Sentences are supposed to contain a subject and an object. Incomplete phrases should be included in the same sentence as the main clause, joined to it by commas or semicolons or the like. Paragraphs should be built from related sentences, and split when you change speaker or focus. Them’s the rules.

 

A deception.

 

Not a complete sentence. Used — not only as a complete sentence — but it also sits as a complete paragraph. It must be important?

Next paragraph:

 

This was the near mythical monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. The home of two dozen cloistered, contemplative monks. Who had built their abbey as far from civilization as they could get.

 

This could easily be one or two grammatically correct, complete, smooth, flowing sentences. Instead, it’s two short, choppy sentences followed by an incomplete phrase masquerading as a sentence. If you take the paragraph by itself, it’s a perfect example of the writing of beginners; untrained, unedited, wrong.

Still, any grammatical rules are subject to modification or complete rejection, if the value of the result outweighs the loss in clarity and the offense to the reader’s sensitivities.

 

A deception.

This was the near mythical monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. The home of two dozen cloistered, contemplative monks. Who had built their abbey as far from civilization as they could get.

It had taken hundreds of years for civilization to find them, but the silent monks had had the last word.

Twenty-four men had stepped beyond the door. It had closed. And not another living soul had been admitted.

Until today.

Chief Inspector Gamache, Jean-Guy Beauvoir and Captain Charbonneau were about to be let in. Their ticket was a dead man.

So obviously a mystery, though the reader likely would have known this before starting. This is from The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel. I suppose the author, Louise Penny, is intentionally being blunt and choppy because it’s a detective story and because the protagonists are likely tough, no-nonsense guys (I couldn’t get myself to read too far so I’ll never know). But it’s just too hard to read. Chop, chop, chop. Sentences as well as paragraphs cut into chunks and dumped on the reader, as if she’s slicing meat that’s frozen too hard and ravenous dogs are waiting to be fed. Maybe I wasn’t ravenous enough.

 

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