When Can We Use Fragments

You might have notices that I like to use fragments on this blog. Like a lot.

Like right now.

But in traditional writing when is it okay to use fragments?

Most of what I’m about to tell you is opinion. Ultimately, there is no real right way to write. But some might say there are wrong ways and they might still consider my tips to be wrong too. So take this with a grain of salt.

Everything Has Rules

I’ve gone over this before in my post about said, but rules are great to think about after everything is already written. If you think too much on the rules of writing before you even write…well, you might never put pen to paper–or fingers to the keys.

But I have also been known to be a bit of a rule breaker. I’ve practiced a lot of my work in fan fiction, building up my descriptors and character creations in something that a lot of people dismiss. So I’ve learned not to think too much about it and it’s definitely helped me write better or at least more.

There are rules. You learn them and then you break them.

Laptop and notebook provided by Nick Morrison

Fragments. Fragments Everywhere.

I use fragments because I’m having a conversation. After years of going to school for broadcast journalism, you learn that people don’t talk like classic literature anymore.

When you write like that…it’s sort of pretentious and intellectual and it makes a lot of things just sound super boring. Think about your English classes. How many times have you sat in class loathing what you’re forced to read because it just sounds so ugh.

There’s types of writing that lend itself to the more intellectual way of writing but in most cases, eh. Write fragments. Break rules. Write as if you’re having a conversation with a reader.

Now what is a fragment exactly? In a normal sentence, you have a subject/verb companionship. In a fragment, your subject is usually lost in the ethos…or assumed by the sentence before. Fragments are snappy and quick and can show anxiety, or excitement. It can break up a tense moment, or if done correctly, make things more tense.

It’s a great tool for varying up your scenes timing which I’ll get into more in another post.

It also can show just how the character reacts to things. For example, if you’re writing a first-person YA, I would 100% recommend fragments. It’s the thoughts of a teen. I remember being a teen and none of my thoughts were the long-winded prose of the books we read in AP English. For a week, my friend and I dramatically shouted Germany! at each other and broke into giggle fits because of an inside joke.

The human condition isn’t to work in prose. We find shortcuts to happiness and unity when we can. We are lazy with our thoughts when we can be.

Meanwhile, if you were writing a third-person, historical romance set during the civil war, fragments might be used less frequently. Like “His coat was soaked a bright crimson and his eyes settled like glass marbles in their pale sockets. She gasped. William was no more. He laid before her. Dead.” You could easily say “He laid before her, dead.” Either works. You just have to think of your impact. Fragments might just be contained to dialogue and your narrator never falls of the path of the golden rules.

There’s nothing wrong with either wording. Or fragments. Or breaking rules.

Write first. Read rules later. It takes practice to learn when to break them. And when you edit your work, question why you put a fragment here or a specific wording there. Ask yourself your intentions for everything you write.

But you’ll never get there if you don’t start writing.

Let me know if you use fragments, or if you think I’m completely out of wack. Also let me know if there are any other rules you question. Maybe we can talk about those here.

2 thoughts on “When Can We Use Fragments

    • awriterbee says:

      Most definitely! That’s were I started breaking away myself and with seeing how broadcast news stories are written, it became very apparent that we humans talk in fragments a lot. We’re messy in our vocabulary. Sometimes we should show that in our writing as well. šŸ™‚

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