So, now that we're writers, we should be experts at putting together sentences. Knowing just what belongs there. And what doesn’t. Perfectly.
And yet, it turns out those rules can be broken. Call me a rebel, but I’m happy writing an incomplete sentence or even a run-on sentence when the situation is right. Let me repeat, when the situation is right.
West Lane Technical Learning Center (a random site I found online, thank you Google), tells us there are elements that make a sentence a, well, sentence.
- First, a sentence starts with a capital letter. Check.
- Second, a sentence must terminate in punctuation - a period, question mark or exclamation point. Check check.
- Third, a sentence must have a subject, which is a noun or pronoun. Hmmm.
- Fourth, a sentence must have an action verb. Okay.
I happen to agree with the rules as put forth by our good friends at West Lane. However, I don’t agree with those folks who argue that every sentence in a novel must be a complete, certified, properly-engineered sentence. That’s kind of boring, don’t you think?
There are a couple examples I can think of off the top of my head in which I would not employ a complete sentence:
- Sometimes you need to make the voice of your character real, and that means incomplete sentences. What if I have a teen protagonist who is telling her story in first person. Does she only use complete sentences? If you answered yes, go hang out with a teen and get back to me on that.
- Sometimes you need to emphasize a point, and a full sentence does not provide the rhythm you desire to do that. Rhythm. It’s important.
So, yes, I think it’s okay to break the rules and not write in complete sentences. However, breaking the rules is different from going hog-wild. If you use too many incomplete sentences, you’ll lose the effect you desire. So. Don’t. Do. It. Too. Much.
Pablo Picasso has one of my favorite quotes on this: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”