Tips for new writers- Sentence fragments

So, you’ve written a beautiful first chapter and have the hook that first sentence needs to be to pull the reader in and keep them going, but your following sentence is dangling there. It’s a description and a continuation of the sentence before.

And then you have a new paragraph. You’ve moved on to the next part of the scene with more dangling words finished off by a period.

She carried an ugly brown handbag. With bold tan stitching and different colored swatches. All in shades of brown.

Only the first sentence has a subject, a verb, and a predicate.

Some writers use periods in place of commas and semicolons. This is jarring to the reader. You can do this sparingly, but not like the example above. The handbag is not important to the reader unless the MC is Mary Poppins, and she’s going to pull a floor lamp out of it.

She carried an ugly brown handbag- a patchwork of swatches, with bold tan stitching.

It’s one sentence and one description.

I do use fragments to emphasize a point. I want the reader to understand this particular point, and in the next sentence, I explain why.

She carried a patchworked handbag, the swatches different shades of brown and pale. The tan stitching stood out against the fabric, but from a distance, it looked like skin. “That’s quite a bag, Ms. Jones.”

“Why, thank you! It’s leather.” She smiled, cocking her hip out and pulling the sides of the bag to show it off.

Something about the way she caressed it struck me as odd and my desperate brain grappled for anything nice to say. Something neutral.

Instead, I blurted, “not anyone I know, is it?”

In the example above, my fragment is: Something neutral.

The bag is a little freaky to the MC and makes her think twice about Ms. Jones. I’ve written this in first-person limited, past tense, and the fragment is a thought. It would even work for third person limited, because ‘Something neutral’ shows how the MC is now silently questioning their association with Ms. Jones.

Fragments have a time and a place, but don’t chop up a description. Don’t have fifty sentence fragments on a page either, unless you want your reader to chuck the book across the room, or click off if they are on a tablet or a phone.

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