Writing a novel, no matter how long, is like swimming up and down an empty pool. You can decide how many lengths you want to swim on any given day, your short term goal of the opposite end of the pool is always in sight, and no one will get in your way. Once you have swum all the lengths necessary to produce a completed story that is fit for sale, you must venture into open water, where you will find none of the comforts of your private pool.
The inherent value of a worthwhile story rests on the idea that a good storyteller shines a light on aspects of the human condition that most of us prefer not to discuss in our everyday lives. Yet if no one talks about such things, they do not vanish, they fester beneath the surface and affect our lives, both directly and indirectly. For example, the debilitating nature of depression hinders anyone from writing about it while smothered by its darkness. Even afterwards, when some light has returned, it may be too difficult to write down a personal memoir, partly due to the nature of the recollection and partly due to a fear of the stigma that is still attached to mental illness in a world where we should know better.
The basic tenet of writing fiction is to “show not tell”, so authors paint scenes with words instead of just explaining the next part of the story. This is solid advice that comes as close to being a golden rule as anyone can expect in the fluid realm of storytelling, where an empty page plus some words becomes a narrative that provokes a dream in the mind of a reader.
Sentence fragments. More common now. Overused?
Their place? End of a paragraph. Closing exclamation.
Much use anywhere else? Not really.
People converse in sentences, proper and complete, either long or short, blunt or sharp, as dictated by the content and the tone of what they want to say. Sentence fragments are dropped into casual speech because a level of familiarity already exists between the speaker and the listener, but the core of the dialogue is still comprised of sentences. When a narrator is talking to a reader, the need for good sentences is greater because the two participants in the conveyance of the fictional dream do not know one another. There is no level of familiarity that permits sentences to be chopped up and served as quick bites of text, yet there appears to be a growing trend to do so, as if the proper sentence is somehow too safe and sterile to reflect the edginess of the author’s cutting prose.
A shrewd and experienced author might have cautioned me against writing a story that falls outside the usual genres, but faced with my determination to proceed, I am sure they would almost certainly have advised me not to deviate from my task. Yet, as if to wilfully overcomplicate the process, I failed to heed that advice too.