Thursday, 16 August 2012

Incomplete Sentences. Are. Irritating.

I'm reading An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay, which won the Orange Award for New Writers.  I'm enjoying it in a slightly abstracted way as I keep on getting pulled up by her fondness for sentences without verbs or subjects.  Like this.  It gives the writing a disjointed feel.  Distancing. An increased significance warranted. Or not. At times.

Maybe it's just my response, but I find it annoying and wish she wouldn't, given she writes beautifully most of the time.  There are the most fabulous descriptions of places and things - for example, this one picked at random describing a village in Spain: "Scarlet geraniums growing in old oil cans, the stripe of light and shade on a white-painted wall, a basket full of tiny silver fish" - so in general I forgive her the occasional clunk and carry on reading.  

But.  But, but, but.  Sentences without verbs or subjects haunt some student manuscripts.  It's as if they believe the randomly dividing up sentences confers additional weight to the story.  I long to confiscate their full stops and give them a fistful of commas instead.  Of course every writer sometimes uses broken sentences for effect, but it has to be a deliberate choice scattered sparsely or else it's simply irritating.  And an irritating story to read is one that remains unfinished. 


D. D. Falvo said...

There are many celebrated authors that did this as well; one that comes to my mind is Ray Bradbury. I agree it is a style that, depending on the writer's skill, can be jarring-- but if there is continuity, a rhythm is developed that smoothes the bumps as you read.

Sarah Duncan said...

I agree that skillful writers can do this, but then a skillful writer can break any and every rule. The trouble is that it's something effective that looks very simple so some less skillful writers attempt it, to less effect. A bit like a Roger Federer drop shot - easy when he does it.