Life, sentences, or our life sentences contain fragments of memories, words, and clauses that can either connect for meaning or remain a source of disconnect like broken links. Some of us misunderstand fragments, whether in life or writing. We fail to realize how fragments must be connected to the whole or the larger story in order for them to matter. In writing, they must be connected to sentences or written into complete sentences in order for them to make sense and connect to larger ideas of the piece of writing.
When I think of fragments, I think of the movie, Inception(2010) with Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page. I consider that movie to be one of the best psychological thrillers of all time. I still do not know if he was in reality at the end of the film.
In Inception, I see the different layers of the dream world as fragments, which by themselves serve as distant planes that do not connect to any reality. When DiCaprio and his team induce the sleep state, they connect those planes into a larger story, or in their case, a motive: to implant an idea into the mind of the guy they are targeting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2ABGzo3Aws
When Fragments Disconnect or DeCathect
The power of suggestion, just like the power of sentences, is a force that can influence us to view life and discourse in different perspectives. Gabriela’s (http://thesenseofajourney.com/ ) comment on my last blog and my response to her made me think of fragments in a new perspective.
I subscribe to the Word-of-the-Day emails from Dictionary.com because (1) I am a nerd, (2) I am a collector of words, and (3) I am a nerd! Well, the word decathect was the featured word one day. The definition is “to withdraw one’s feelings of attachment from (a person, idea, or object), as in anticipation of a future loss.”
The word’s meaning resonated with me as a person and as a writer. I used to run away from my problems. I threw up a wall and hightailed out of there when I was afraid of something or someone being lost. Some of those situations did not warrant the fear of loss. The fear was imagined.
As I thought about fragments, I could see how they may represent that fear to connect to a complete idea. Some of our ideas may be so life-changing or thought-provoking that we may fear their strength or others’ reactions. If that is the case, then as writers we must abandon that self-defeating belief and clamor to Audre Lorde’s words: “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
Fragments could also be like a relationship we feel is right, but it is not giving us what we really need: it just feels like it is complete, but it is missing the basic elements.
The Basic Elements of Sentences
You can tell if you have a complete sentence by being able to answer the following three questions:
1) Does it have a subject?
You must be able to tell whom or what the sentence is about.
a) Raced down her driveway like a bolt of lightning. (Who is racing down her driveway?)
***Dorita raced down her driveway like a bolt of lightning.
b) Were gently lifted in the cool morning breeze. (What is being gently lifted?)
***The plaid pleats of her skirt were gently lifted in the cool morning breeze.
This type of fragment is known as the lonely verb. To me, the lonely verb fragment reminds me of an idea or dream not put into action. We often have ideas or dreams that we are afraid of pursuing. Maybe it is our fear of our greatness, as Marianne Williamson says in her famous quote, or maybe it is our fear of failure.
Someone may have told us that it can never be done, just like a high school guidance counselor told me to abandon my dream of attending a college on my list. She advised me to reconsider applying to FSU because I was not a part of the top 10% of my graduating class. According to her opinion, I would never survive the first semester. I should stick to the local community college or a trade school.
If I had listened to her, my dream would have been abandoned like a lonely verb fragment. But there was an important component or subject missing: me. I pressed forward and graduated from FSU with my bachelor’s & master’s degrees in English Education. Her dismissal of my potential became one of the many driving forces that led me to become a teacher and encourage students who were often dismissed.
A complete sentence must have someone or something to put it into action.
2) Does it have a verb?
You must know what the subject is doing or what is being done to the subject.
a) Julia & Juliette James, the Doublemint twins. (What are they doing? What is being stated about them?)
***Julia & Juliette James, the Doublemint twins, looked out for Dorita in the neighborhood.
3) Is it a complete thought?
Sentences can have a subject and a verb, but they still are missing something to make them complete. You are left with the questions: So what? What happens next?
a) When they saw the bullies chasing Dorita. (What happens next?)
***When they saw the bullies chasing Dorita, the Doublemint twins tackled them like Jacksonville Jaguars linebackers.
You can also remove the pesky word that is causing the problem: the subordinate conjunction when: They saw the bullies chasing Dorita. The Doublemint twins tackled them like Jacksonville Jaguars linebackers.
When makes a sentence dependent. Like a newborn child must be attached to a nurturing parent, any group of words that follow it must be connected to a complete sentence. Otherwise, it will be a dependent clause fragment.
b) To rescue Dorita from a terrible fate.
Another pesky error that falls into this category of incomplete thought fragments is the infinitive phrase fragment: a group of words following the preposition to and the base form of a verb.
****To rescue Dorita from a terrible fate, the Doublemint twins hurried toward the bus stop as quickly as the Justice League.
Think of infinitive phrase fragments as the loud mouth Little Red Riding Hood on the Bugs Bunny cartoon. She kept saying, “Oh Grandma. What big teeth for you to have!” If you haven’t seen the cartoon and need a good laugh, here it is: http://www.supercartoons.net/cartoon/693/little-red-riding-rabbit.html
Infinitive phrase fragments are annoying errors to avoid.
The Fragment Story Comes to an End. . .
So as you can see, a little error like a fragment can be understood in ordinary, real-life examples. And with all grammatical rules, they are made to be broken for rhetorical effect in creative writing and academic discourse.
But that is another story, somewhat discussed here if you are still in the storytelling mood: http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/writing-while-forty-o-what-a-tangled-web-we-writers-weave
What are your experiences with defragmenting life or sentences? Have you ever had to deal with broken fragments of a dream or an idea? Did you ever resolve those fragments?