Tag Archive | writing conventions

Make Time for the Pause or You’ll Miss Its Intended Meaning

Photo found on Google Images

Photo found on Google Images

The road once travelled,

feet planted firm on solid

ground, interrupted

 

by roots thirsty for

the strength that you possess. They

demand your attention.

 

You decide: let them

overtake you, your lower

limbs petrifying

 

into suspended

thought and motion or pause

briefly, study its

 

intrusion, finding

its point of origin,

harvesting instead

 

its fruit so you can

move on, girded with wisdom

and understanding.

—by Alexandra Caselle

Trees are Mother Nature’s grapevine.  Not only do they anchor the ecosystem, but trees also communicate history through the rings of their trunks. Once a person enters a tree’s space, he or she feels nature’s vibe.

Place an ear against its bark. Listen to how it amplifies the scurrying of the squirrels and the knocking of the woodpecker’s beak. Tarry a little longer in its presence, and become connected to a network that extends farther than any Wi-Fi system.

A tree’s placement affects the overall landscape.  It can enhance the area, change its composition, or attract other wildlife. These positive changes unearth a hidden attribute of the landscape, something that broadens Mother Nature’s or the developers’ original design.

Trees can also block paths. Their roots disrupt the leveled planes of sidewalks and driveways.  People can either ignore them or choose to remove them.

The placement of a comma can affect a sentence’s overall composition.  A comma can add layers and depth to a sentence and extend its meaning.  It is that blinking caution light, alerting readers to slow down before they miss something that will be of great impact.

Those pesky little pronunciation marks account for a lot of writing errors. Teachers break down its plethora of rules to one basic concept: a comma means pause.  That one word, pause, leads writers off on a tangent.  They begin writing how they talk.

During the writing process, writers may reread the emerging piece, listening in their minds for places between words where a break would go.  The problem with expecting a pause is the misperception that writing should mirror the normal flow of conversation.

The pauses of everyday dialogue do not always indicate a need for a comma when translated into the written word. The comma does direct the reader to pause, but there is a reason for it.   It emphasizes or elaborates a point in the sentence.

The pauses that occur in life definitely direct people’s attention to a deeper meaning in their lives, and if they juxtapose their lives against some of the comma rules, people may see how their life’s hiccups extend their conceptions of themselves.

When Sentences & Life Make You Take a Time Out

A common use of the comma is to separate nonessential clauses and phrases from the main sentence.  These groups of words function as extra information, but when removed, do not alter the original meaning of the sentence.  Those supplemental syntactical elements function as the scantily clad cousin who saunters in the middle of the wedding vows: they interrupt the flow and steal the show.

These interrupters may be appositives that further describe the subject:

Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a medical professional who examined the liver and ate it, too, is one of the most frightening villains in horror films.

Now compare the above sentence to the one below:

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is one of the most frightening villains in horror films.

The addition of the nonessential element adds character and makes the reader notice.

For me, losing the ability to walk on my own for an extended length of time forced me to appreciate things taken for granted.  That pause was an incubation time for me.  It emphasized past hurts that I needed to release and it instilled gratitude.  There is nothing more humbling, than having a rotating round of nurses remove all ounces of dignity while assisting you with simple things like bathing or using the restroom.

Nothing strikes a blow like having your parents, who are in their 70s and 80s, see you struggle with a walker decked out in green tennis balls during your physical therapy session.  My legs were like blocks of concrete.  I willed them to move, wishing I had Magneto’s mind control.  I was more like a flimsy rag doll being held up by three medical puppeteers in white.

That pause broke my pride, a necessary interruption.

That elongated period of physical therapy and loss of independence led me to examine a series of actions and thoughts that did not belong in my emotional, spiritual, or psychological being. Yes, they were sequential events, happening successively, like a list of life events. But their timeframe was definite, not infinite.  They had an end date that occurred in the distant past, but I refused to evict them from my life.

They were like a serial comma, further reflection on them, just added problem, after problem, after problem in my present, nonessential items in a series.   In writing, teachers instruct us to place a comma or break after each item in a series until you come to the conjunction and.

But there has to come a time when we stop placing breaks into the composed lines of our lives and let the comma or past event actually fulfill its role.  If we were to look up the meaning of serial in the dictionary, we would see that it means “pertaining to the transmission or pressing of each part of a whole in sequence.”  (www.dictionary.com)

Commas and those life’s hiccups may force us to slow down but after we learn the meaning, then we must press forward.

They were designed to detain us only for a little awhile.

Review the most common rules here:  http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/commas.asp

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The Complexity of Relationships: Choosing Your Personal and Syntactical Connections Wisely

Image taken from Google Images

Image taken from Google Images

Maybe you don’t recognize what you got between your eyes (well)

So I’m gonna set you correct so you can get what you should get (well)

Intuition’s something sweet (well)

Let you know what you know, let you find before you seek (well)

Spirit of discernment, pray for it everyday (well)

Let you know who should go and who you should let stay (well)

There’s power in them rolling hills, come on

You’re a prize possession, not everybody’s worthy

Only reason I know is cause I headed down that road

And it’d be a shame for you not to have your own glow, Come on (well)

—“Rolling Hills” Jill Scott

We commonly use Venn diagrams to show the likenesses and differences between two things or to illustrate the inclusiveness of data in mathematics. As a teacher, I have used them to teach comparison and contrast as a reading skill and as a rhetorical form.

Venn diagrams can also be applied to relationships.  We have to take care in choosing with whom we let into our inner circle.  A part of that person’s personality, essence, and aura is absorbed into our space.  Our interaction with that person creates spiritual ties, and those ties change us, for better or worse.

We cannot let just anyone enter our aura, spirit, or space.  “There’s power in them rolling hills” as Jill Scott sings, or power in our aura.  An ideal interaction involves someone teaching us the many definitions of consummate love and showing us the complexity of humanity as his or her life experiences enrich our perspective.  Our individual power or selves remain intact.

With a toxic relationship, we absorb negative qualities that attach themselves to us and mutate the original, double-helix script inside of us.  We are Bruce Banner evolving into the Incredible Hulk: We lose who we are and become who he or she is. Our power, our individual selves do not remain intact.

When a person ends a relationship, he or she can drain our power and weaken us. Then we become like Gotye: our spiritual landscape, a patchwork featuring swaths of experience that mark where that person has been, our bedrooms darkened, Ben & Jerry’s cartons creating a new type of Berber carpet, Gotye’s words on repeat–“But you didn’t have to cut me off/Make it like it never happened and that we were nothing/ Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”

Believe it or not, Venn diagrams have a unique connection to more than personal relationships.  Let’s look at how and where our personal and syntactical areas of our lives and writing intersect.

Simple Sentences (1 independent clause)

Venn diagrams are composed of two separate circles.  Each circle represents an individual, whole and complete.  The circle already has everything it needs.  It can have a private party if it wants to as India Arie sings, “ I’m havin’ a private party/ learning how to love me/ celebrating the woman I’ve become, yeah/ Sometimes I’m alone but never lonely/That’s what I’ve come to realize.”

Simple sentences have what they need: a subject, a predicate, a complete thought, and punctuation. The punctuation is the key part because it sets the boundaries of where they begin and end. The same boundaries define each circle of a Venn diagram or each person of a relationship.

Examples of Simple Sentences

The clouds parted and wept droplets from heaven.

Sand swirled into the black sky.

Dolphins arose from their underwater haven.

Compound Sentences (1 independent clause + 1 independent clause)

When two circles join together, they have a common, central point where they meet and become one.  There are no broken lines in their boundaries; they remain intact.  There are no open spaces, incomplete areas, or leftover wounds to be filled by this new relationship. Their union retains their individual components as it forms a new entity in the middle. They establish interdependence.

Compound sentences are two independent clauses who join together to create a new meaning, but the relationship that is tying them together does not rob them of their original selves.  If the relationship ends, they are still complete.  Whether connected by semicolons, coordinating conjunctions, or semicolons and conjunctive adverbs, the two independent clauses become intricately involved, but they do need the other to complete them.

Hence they are the representation of a healthy relationship, personally or syntactically.

Examples of Compound Sentences

Her body sank into the depths of the ocean, and the pain oozed out of her.

She lost consciousness; her spirit longed to become one with God.

Her limbs sprawled out like a starfish; however, something inside wouldn’t allow her to let go.

Complex Sentences (1 independent clause + 1 dependent clause)

When two circles attach to each other, the point of connection may have some gaps. One circle may also overlap too much on the other circle.  The relationship becomes one of dependence.  One cannot exist without the other.  The addition of their union makes their interaction complex.

The addition of one word, in this case, a subordinating conjunction (if, as,unless, after, because, when, while), eliminates or breaks the boundaries that makes each circle independent. The circle loses a sense of self and undertakes a new meaning.

When an independent clause or circle is removed and the relationship is severed, but parts of it still linger behind in the subordinate conjunction, the other independent clause or circle is left incomplete with only the words of Amy Winehouse to soothe it:  “He walks away/ the sun goes down/he takes the day but I’m grown/And in your way/ in this deep shade/my tears dry.”

The subordinate word symbolizes a wound in the boundaries of us.  We seek the other to fill the emptiness inside. Our relationship becomes one of subordination: what we need to make us complete determines the context of meaning in the relationship.  Like in complex sentences, the addition of what is missing determines if it is a sentential relationship of time, condition, addition, or cause and effect.

Examples of Complex Sentences

Sea gulls dipped in and out of the water as if they were possessed.

When she swam further out, her body became lighter and lighter.

Her mind descended into the deeper layers of her subconscious while a torrent of emotion flooded her being.

Compound-Complex Sentences (2 independent clauses + 1 or more dependent clauses)

There are Venn diagrams that have more than two overlapping circles.  They still meet in the middle, but their individual components remain intact.  Those additional circles add more completeness and complexity to the overall relationships.  The tapestry of meaning enriches and grows into something more, leaving an impact on all involved.  Those additions can be seen as children or each other’s families joining as one.

Compound-complex sentences are all inclusive.  Two independent clauses are present and they welcome an indefinite number of dependent clauses to share in the grammatical love.  Think of William Faulkner’s and Toni Morrison’s sentences and how just one of them can take up a whole page.

Compound-complex sentences are a combination of a compound sentence and a complex sentence.

Examples of Compound-Complex Sentences

The following examples are taken from the following link: http://www.epcc.edu/collegereadiness/documents/complex_sentences.pdf

Although thought to be indestructible, the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and that forever changed the NYC skyline.

The Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorists, who thought they could tear the US apart, but instead, this tragedy brought the US people together.

 

Here is an example of Faulkner’s style listed below and taken from this link: http://www.stylustutors.com/uncategorized/grammar-tip-of-the-day-run-on-sentences

It is a great use of a succession of compound-complex sentences to create a stream-of-consciousness effect, perfect for characterization in a novel or short story.

“Monday is no different from any other weekday in Jefferson now. The streets are paved now, and the telephone and electric companies are cutting down more and more of the shade trees–the water oaks, the maples and locusts and elms–to make room for iron poles bearing clusters of bloated and ghostly and bloodless grapes, and we have a city laundry which makes the rounds on Monday morning, gathering the bundles of clothes into bright-colored, specially-made motor cars: the soiled wearing of a whole week now flees apparition like behind alert and irritable electric horns, with a long diminishing noise of rubber and asphalt like tearing silk, and even the Negro women, who still take in white people’s washing after the old custom, fetch and deliver it in automobiles.”

Varying sentence variety expands the horizon of our writing.  Interacting with various people throughout our lives enables us to grow into our better selves. When choosing significant others or dependent clauses for relationships, like Toyota says, “choose wisely.”

How will you choose today?

Running On and On and On: Having the Courage to Get Off Track

Image found on Google Images

Image found on Google Images

The pin of predictability prickles into the grooves of my memory.  It scratches the surface of the present and inserts a loop of random thoughts. The soundtrack of the past drowns out the development of my ideas and my life.  Here I go again, cluttering my mind with white noise. This cycle spirals out of control and leaves my creativity chalk-lined on the writing pavement.

I head to the neighborhood track for a long walk, usually three to four hours of extracting the pin out.

A cul-de-sac of trees lines both sides of the winding trail.  I lean against one of the trees, a sage with a crop of hanging moss twisted into dreadlocks.  I palm its aged bark for guidance amidst the gold and green foliage of its followers.   With no answers dispensed, I step gingerly around the carpet of freshly dug dirt and fallen leaves.  I continue my stroll.

Lap after lap, the scenery does not change and neither does my train of thought.  I feel like Neo in the opening scene of The Matrix Revolutions.  There is nothing here to separate one thought from the other.

In life, we get stuck in the groove sometimes.  We replay memories over and over again.  Some of those memories are pleasant, often stirred by a scent, a song, or a photo.  Some are mistakes we have made, things we wish to retract or redo.  So even though we have grown a lot from the place that we were in when those memories happened, those thoughts creep up like weeds and pose a threat to threaten our very existence or hedge our newfound wisdom and growth.

With comma splices and fused sentences, those pesky run-on errors, wrong placement or non-placement of punctuation buries the idea into an ongoing string of sentences just like our present is sometimes buried inside our past.

Run-ons threaten the clarity of an idea.

One way to correct this error is to separate the complete sentences or independent clauses with a period:

Example:  The St. Johns River flowed under the harpsichord Dames Pointe Bridge, a mystical being lulling God’s creations into its womb, I lounged over the braided rail bordering the balcony of my townhouse, the soundtrack of Jacksonville’s rush hour traffic dwindled in the distance as the sun left its footprints in the horizon. (comma splice—independent clauses or complete sentences joined incorrectly by commas)

Correction: The St. Johns River flowed under the harpsichord Dames Pointe Bridge, a mystical being lulling God’s creations into its womb. I lounged over the braided rail bordering the balcony of my townhouse.

The soundtrack of Jacksonville’s rush hour traffic dwindled in the distance as the sun left its footprints in the horizon.

Here are three more ways to correct them:

  1.  Add a  comma and a coordinating conjunction between the independent clauses.
    1. Complete sentence      , FAN BOYS    Complete       sentence

                                                 FAN BOYS =For And Nor  But  Or Yet So

Example:

Two floral flasks of tea-tinged gin and the dulcet tones of jazz set the mood a king-sized bed shrouded with black lace and flanked by hearts made of strawberries created the ultimate aphrodisiac. (fused sentence— independent clauses or complete sentences joined incorrectly with no punctuation)

Correction: Two floral flasks of tea-tinged gin and the dulcet tones of jazz set the mood, and a king-sized bed shrouded with black lace and flanked by hearts made of strawberries created the ultimate aphrodisiac.

  1. Add a semicolon between the two independent clauses.
    1. Complete sentence      ;     Complete sentence

Example:

He retrieved the cigar from my fingers and inhaled the fumes exhaled in a fugue.

Correction: He retrieved the cigar from my fingers and inhaled; the fumes exhaled in a fugue.

  1. Add a semicolon, a conjunctive adverb, and a  comma between the two independent clauses.    
    1. Complete sentence   ;       transition word,     Complete       sentence

Conjunctive adverbs/transition words:  moreover, however, therefore, in fact, nevertheless, etc.

Example:

The baritone notes of the bass signaled the horns to glide in with their beats, the drums barreled through the composition, the piano chimed in as Billie Holiday crooned.

Correction:  The baritone notes of the bass signaled the horns to glide in with their beats; moreover, the drums barreled through the composition. The piano chimed in as Billie Holiday crooned.

By finding where one complete sentence ends and the next one begins, we can ask ourselves if they are joined correctly where they meet.  The period, the semicolon, the coordinating conjunctions, and conjunctive adverbs act as equalizers.  There must be a complete sentence on both sides of them.

With life, my future self is that equalizer.  On each side of it lies my present with the steps that I am taking every day to make sure my purpose is complete.

Getting off the beaten track of the past, the status quo, and the run-on sentence will lead to clarity in life and in writing.

WRITING WHILE FORTY: The Curious Case of the Connection of Dashes & Parentheses to Writing & Reinvention

turning 40 road sign

(Image originally found on Google Images)

Coming up at Mile 40: 

Writer Experiencing Gray Hairs, Growing Pains, Fluctuating Fat, & Inevitable Reinvention

in Herself and Her Writing

My back is against the wall.  Life wedges its foot deeper into my chest. The weight of it against my clavicle is an avalanche of bricks.  My breathing becomes labored and ragged. Guilt, fear, anxiety, regret, and abandoned dreams and goals, the harbingers of middle age, circle around me.

The Type-A personality in me wants to file each threat in a neat compartment and regain control.  My self-competitive streak tells me I have failed because I didn’t stay on that golden brick road of mobility and success.  I’m turning 40, and I am not where I wanted to be.

I am also not the writer that I wanted to be.

A high school writing award sits on my dresser.  It reminds me of my old writer self : the stories I wrote daily ever since I was a child, the creativity I weaved into literary analysis essays in AP English, the imagination that ran wild. It taunts me, as if to ask the question: What happened to you?

I guess the road bumps of life are situations designed to interrupt life, experiences tossed into the flow in order to pull us toward another direction, whether we are willing to go or not.  It’s funny how those setbacks—or in a positive light, those setups for change—can be compared to dashes.

In rhetorical grammar, dashes are used to interrupt the sentence with information.  They make the reader pause and reflect on the impact of the new idea being inserted.  Writers mainly employ them when they want to emphasize a point or detail.  I think of the dash as a diva because it demands attention and commands respect.

For example, look at the way the presence or absence of dashes alter meaning in sentences from Hawa Allen’s essay, “When Tyra Met Naomi:  Race, Fashion, and Rivalry” (published in Gerald Early and Debra Dickerson’s book, Best African American Essays:2009):

“One of the reasons I wanted to do this show is because sisterhood is so important to me.  I feel like women hate on each other—we’re jealous—and it has to stop.”

               “One of the reasons I wanted to do this show is because sisterhood is so important to me.  I feel like women hate on each other and it has to stop.”

The story had all the elements of talk-show-pathos—the tears, the accusations, the confessions of emotional agony—but, to her credit, Banks refused to make the story purely a personal one.

               The story had all the elements of talk-show-pathos but, to her credit, Banks refused to make the story purely a personal one. 

She could have easily made Campbell the sole villain—given the model’s history of petulance, anger-management issues and resulting lawsuits, most of the work was already done for her—but instead she chose to focus on both systemic racism in the modeling industry and internalized sexism among women.

              She could have easily made Campbell the sole villain but instead she chose to focus on both systemic racism in the modeling industry and internalized sexism among women.

Like the dashes, isn’t funny when we think if certain situations didn’t happen we would be better off but without them, they add a different layer of meaning in our lives and our growth?

547462_10151323105333606_1448633804_n

(Image originally found on What You Can Do Facebook page)

I realize that my experiences have spun their own tale, a tapestry of wisdom, missteps, baggage releasing, and growth.  No, I am not the eighteen-year-old who could compose a story on her old typewriter in fifteen minutes about an old woman she saw on the city bus earlier that day. Yes, as a teenager, I could render a character, her setting, her plight into a reader’s imagination. Now I can add depth to the story, thanks to experience.

Here I am, swinging at the onset of middle age, but I cannot fight change.  It is inevitable.  Growing older is a part of life.  Instead of fighting it, I must embrace it.

I’m trying to run away from the woman, the writer I am destined to become.

I must weave the uncomfortable experiences seamlessly into the fabric of my life.  They emphasize areas within me that need to develop in order to become that middle-aged woman.  But I should not let them stop me and back me into a corner.  I must acknowledge them and keep living my life.

They are only parenthetical times in my journey.

With parentheses, the author taps the reader gently on the shoulder and guides him or her to the emphasized point.  I think of the parenthesis as the mediator who is trying to achieve harmony between the sentence and the information it is presenting or like a friend who is whispering his or her commentary while the reader is reading.  Here is another example from Allan’s essay:

Though the Tyra episode ended with the requisite apology from Campbell (“However I’ve affected you or you’ve felt that I’ve affected you, I take my responsibility.  I must say I’m proud of you.  You’ve been a powerful black woman. . . Please continue) and tears from Banks, its real strength was that Banks framed her enmity with Campbell as a result of the larger institutional and social forces that pitted the two models against each other in the first place.

        Though the Tyra episode ended with the requisite apology from Campbell and tears from Banks, its real strength was that Banks framed her enmity with Campbell as a result of the larger institutional and social forces that pitted the two models against each other in the first place.

I guess Tyra didn’t let those larger institutional and social forces serve as setbacks or interruptions in her career.  She gleaned what she could learn from that situation and pushed forward.

Now it is the time for my reflection.

40pic-every gray hair tells a story(Image originally found on Google Images)

J. Victoria Saunders tweeted a link to her Tumblr page recently that addressed 35 nuggets of wisdom she has learned at the age of 35. (http://jvictoriasanders.com/post/41215634293/thirty-five-in-honor-of-35-the-mid-thirties-sounds.)  She inspired me to come up with my own 40 for 40.  It is a work-in-progress.

Things I Have Learned About Life & Writing While Approaching 40

  1. Revenge is a dish best served by karma, not by me.
  2. Stay in my lane.
  3. Listen to my intuition.
  4. Every adversity deepens character and perseverance breeds strength.
  5. There is a reason why I can’t change my past:  Everything was supposed to happen.
  6. Learn to deal with being outside of my comfort zone.
  7. My mind is my Achilles heel.
  8. Stop being my worst inner critic.
  9. If I feel like crap on the inside, people will treat me like crap. That crap will also color my perspective.
  10. I define what normal is.
  11. Beauty truly does come from within.
  12. Don’t  internalize the actions of others into your stream of consciousness.
  13. Cherish the ones you love while they are still here.
  14. If it is true love, it will always come back to you.
  15. There is a time and place to burn bridges.
  16. When opportunity knocks at the door, always answer it.  It may never present itself again.
  17. Everyone has a purpose. Be prepared for it to change during different times in life.
  18. My thoughts and actions sometimes create my circumstances.
  19. Always look  at a situation from someone else’s perspective.
  20. Forgiveness frees you from unresolved anger growing into outward manifestations of illness and unhappiness.
  21. Unforgiveness changes you, and usually that change is not a positive one.
  22. The path that helped you run away from your problems will always lead you back to them.
  23. To have peace, I must relinquish control.
  24. Being sensitive is not a sign of weakness.
  25. Making it real and being realistic in my writing are related.  Strive for sentiment instead of sensationalism.
  26. Don’t imprint on my characters and writing too much. There is a difference between writing for self and writing for      others.
  27. Writing is an ongoing, lifetime journey of learning and discovery.
  28. Let the muse reign.
  29. Do not pimp out your muse.  Stay true to your style of writing.
  30. Every masterpiece, written or human, has its own imperfections. They add to the composition’s beauty.
  31. Ground my  reader into the concrete instead of the abstract.  Let my nouns and verbs, not my adverbs and adjectives, carry the narrative.
  32. My writing  is not my personal cache of words I know.  Use clear word choice to convey understanding to my reader, not the long, sultry affair with Webster.
  33. If a  character is the narrator of the story, he or she cannot die at the end of the story.  If the character begins the story, he or she must end it.
  34. The creative and the critical can exist in the same written discourse.
  35. Honor the process of writing in truth in order to be of service to my readers.
  36. Reading and writing are symbiotic processes.  You must read extensively and study professional models of writing in order to hone your writing.
  37. Back story  should be woven seamlessly into the narrative.
  38. Write and order each sentence with care. Each sentence should be able to link the reader to the larger narrative just like a piece of yarn remains connected to its skein.
  39. The  placement of a punctuation mark can modify the meaning of a sentence.
  40. Do not be  afraid to reinvent myself even if it means rebuilding my life.

Being a writer, at any age, involves reinvention and letting go.  Our experiences drive our creative process. We must transition throughout our lifetimes even though the process seems more amplified.

Additional information about punctuation as rhetorical grammar can be found in Noah Lukeman’s A Dash of Style:  The Art and Mastery of Punctuation.

What lessons have you learned about writing and/or life?

Defragmenting Life & Sentences

Originally created by enterwebhub.comhttp://www.enterwebhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/broken_links.jpg

Clipart originally created by enterwebhub.comhttp://www.enterwebhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/broken_links.jpg

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.

Examples:

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.

Examples:

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?

Examples:

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

More about correcting fragments on this Grammar Bytes (http://chompchomp.com) link:      fragrules

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?

Sowing Seeds of Perspective in Our Writing

The new year often brings about resolutions.  Lose weight. Check.  Exercise more. Somewhat check. Stop drinking so much caffeine. Uhh–yeah about that.  Start a blog. Double check–started 2nd one today.

As a former educator, I have noticed that some of my students view writing as some Holy Grail that is only given to the gifted.  So I liked demystifying the writing process and the rules and exceptions to the rules of the writing conventions.  I hope to continue doing the same for all types of readers on this blog.

As a writer, I like to share how I engage with my own writing process.  I stumbled across a writing metaphor exercise that I did with my students a long time ago.  It made me want to re-envision writing as a starting place to my resolution of working more on my writing.  For me, writing is birth.

Just like when women give birth, my writing/creation is not perfect; there are some idiosyncrasies, characteristics that are imperfect,  that others except the mother/creator may see as flaws, but  no creation is intended to be perfect. Writing is something I still love to do because the power is in the process of nurturing the creation and teasing out the best in it.

As writers, the creation becomes an extension/representation of ourselves, our psyches, our humanity—the fragility, wonder, and mortality/immortality of it—that is what writing is.

The power is in the creative process and the creation itself.

Now writing as birth is a commonly used comparison.  Here are some other metaphors that my students created:

*Writing is a puzzle.

*Writing is exercise, depending on whether you like to do it or not.

*Writing is health food.

*Writing is a useless thing only meant for the teacher.  ( Ahh…the blunt stab of honesty here.)

*Writing is traveling.

*Writing is the wind.  It has no ties, and it comes and goes when it wants to.

*Writing is a dream or a stream-of-consciousness.

*Writing is therapy.

*Writing is schizophrenia.

*Writing is a spider web because you start from a small idea and make something beautiful out of it.

So what is your metaphor or simile for writing? How do you see it?  How can re-envisioning the process help you with your own writing?

 

Feel free to comment!       Writing is or is like . . .

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