Author Archive

Helping Author Friends

By: Trista Herring Baughman

Occasionally, I witness a rallying call to support local businesses. It’s a nice gesture, one I’d like to see more often. I prefer to shop local when I can: farmers’ markets, locally-owned specialty stores, mom-and-pop restaurants, etc.

I don’t think authors generally come to mind when we speak of local small businesses, but they should. Indie authors, especially. Their books are their business. Writing, formatting, marketing, and publishing are all their responsibility.

When you write a book, it’s a part of you that you’re setting out into the world.  It isn’t as much about the money as it is impacting your readers. But money pays the bills and allows you to continue your writing passion, so there’s that.

It’s a common misconception that authors make tons of money. Well-known authors such as J.K. Rowling and R.L. Stine probably do. The majority of authors aren’t there, just yet. I don’t know many authors that earn enough to write books for a living.

Most self-publishing authors make more per book in royalties, but typically sell less.

Let’s say you self-publish a full-color, 32-page book on KDP and sell it for $7.99 (The minimum price is $6.08). $3.65 goes to printing. Estimated royalties are $1.14 per book; the rest goes to KDP.

You’ll have to sell many copies to get a decent paycheck. To sell many copies, you need a marketing plan, which, you guessed it, takes more money.

As you can see, your author friends could really use your help.

Whether your friends are traditional or indie authors, here’s a few simple ways to be supportive.

  1. Buy their books. This one seems obvious. When I released my first book, I was so excited. I shared it on social media and told all my friends. I even booked a few signings around my local area. I gave out a few complimentary copies to select friends and family who congratulated me and were excited for me. But only a handful of those actually bought a copy, shared my posts, or came to events. Less than a handful reviewed my book. You may be thinking, “Well, maybe your book sucks.” Don’t think I didn’t wonder that myself. But it doesn’t suck. I came to find out that other authors (amazing authors) had this exact same problem. I think family and friends simply don’t realize all the different ways they can help. So, if your author friend has a book, buy it for yourself or as a gift for someone you know. Books make great gifts for all occasions! You could even grab a copy for your local little free library!
  2. Share their website. Like, follow, and share their pages and posts on social media: Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, Instagram, etc. This will boost their visibility on these platforms and increase the chances of reaching more potential readers. Follow their blog, visit their website for updates. Leave a comment. All of these small things are huge to your author friends.
  3. Review and star their books. Did you like their book? Let someone know! Word of mouth is a great way to get more readers. Sites like GoodReads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble are great places to star and share reviews. It will only take up a little bit of time, even if you do all three! (No reason why you can’t copy and paste the same review). Five star reviews will help their book pop up in more search results. Think of it as a gift that keeps on giving.
  4. Add their books to your “reading” or “want to read” shelves on GoodReads. The more shelves their books are on, the more newsfeed they get into.
  5. Tell them personally what you like (or dislike) about their book. Authors need honest feedback! They will appreciate your praise or constructive criticism.
  6. Volunteer to be a beta reader. Beta readers read the book before anyone else and offer feedback. This may be notes on grammar errors or plot holes, or it could just be your overall opinion of the book. Before you offer to be a beta reader, get the details. How long is the book? Will you need to read the whole book or only part of it? When is the deadline? If you have the time, set a reminder on your phone so you won’t leave them hanging. If you think you won’t have the time, respectfully decline. Saying you will when you won’t is the opposite of helpful.
  7. Send some good old-fashioned snail mail. You can make an author’s day by writing to say what you thought of their book.
  8. Request a copy of their book at your local library and bookstore. If they already carry it, ask anyway! It may inspire the librarian or sales person to read the book themselves or recommend it to others. If enough people request a title, bookstores may order a few for their shelves.
  9. Go to their events. Show your support by stopping by with your copy of their book to book signings or festivals. There is nothing sadder than a book signing where no one shows up.

Whether you’re a writer yourself or not, you can do these things for your author friends. But there’s even more you can do if you are a writer, too.

Writers Helping Writers can…

  1. Interview your author friends for your blog.
  2. Review their books on your blog.
  3. Invite them to your writer’s group or start one with them.
  4. Carpool to a writer’s conference. This is a good way to network and learn valuable trade skills. It’s always nice to have a friend when learning.
  5. Host workshops to lend your expertise to fellow writers. Invite your writer friends.
  6. Mentor a new/struggling writer.

These are just a few ways to help your author friends. They are an excellent place to start. I think you will find that helping others will make you feel great, too!


Trista Herring Baughman

Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama.  She isthe author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find out more about her books on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.

 

Sweet Success for Trista Herring Baughman

Hooray – the wait is over! Trista Herring Baughman’s third book, ZOMBIESAURS, just recently released. This scary, fun picture book is hand-illustrated by Trista and her sons, Robby (11) and Johnathan (8), and contains information on the prehistoric creatures depicted in the book. If you love zombies, dinosaurs, or spooky bedtime stories, this book is for you! Pick up a copy from Amazon.

Zombiesaurs, By: Trista Herring Baughman

ABOUT THE BOOK:

In a jungle on an island that is way far out to sea…
Something’s waiting in the shadows,
Come and take a look with me.
Inside this book you’re going to find a terrifyingly spooky rhyme
It’s creepy, spine-tingling, one of a kind.
It may even keep you up past your bedtime.
Good night, sleep tight.
Don’t let the Zombiesaurs bite!

Trista Herring Baughman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Trista Herring Baughman is a star-gazing, pirate-loving, dinosaur digging, country girl, children’s author, and blogger. She grew up in Mississippi, where she met her high-school sweetheart. They are now married and have lived in Nebraska and Louisiana with their sons and critters. Visit Trista at https://booksbytrista.wordpress.com/ and follow her on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Injecting Humor into Your Novel and Characters

By: Georgiana Hall (G.G. Hall)

Let’s face it. After 2 years of Covid-related lockdowns, sadness, restrictions, and whatever else, we all need a good laugh. So, as I was working on that fifth revision of the tenth book in my series about dwarf two-headed red aliens who landed in Nashville to overtake Tastee Freeze, I decided it was time to consider putting a little humor into my work. As writers with endless amounts of talent, we all know this is easy. Of course it is, right? Well sort of. So how can you tickle your readers’ funny bones without going off the deep end?

Back away from your keyboard for a few minutes and ask yourself- who are my characters? Why are they unique? Is there something about one of them that just maybe would make someone laugh? Suppose for a moment that one of your characters is a tall, exceptionally beautiful blonde woman. She has striking pale blue eyes that match the color of the Colorado sky on a clear day. We have a vivid image of this woman in our heads but what happens when she walks?

Giving this character a name just for fun, let “Alice” be the beautiful woman who looks fabulous in an evening gown but cannot walk three feet in high heels. Instead of letting Alice fall and get injured why not describe her “trials and tribulations” of ambulating in 3-inch spike heels in the snow. Will her heels get stuck? Will she curse her way to the door? Or will she kick off her heels, hold up her head and tiptoe barefoot in the freezing cold flakes of powdery snow? Somewhere in describing all of this, we realize that despite Alice’s elegance, she has just enough clumsiness in her gait to make this a funny scene. By focusing on one small physical flaw or mistake we have now captured our readers’ hearts and tickled their funny bones.

Once again, take a step away from your computer screen and look out the window this time. Where does your novel take place? In a house? A forest? A castle? What is one thing in that setting that you could turn into a “humorous moment?” I remember a scene in a movie one time where the staircase had a wobbly banister pole at the top of the stairs. It drove the main character nuts. One day out of the blue, he decided to fix this nagging pole by suddenly firing up a chain saw and cutting the wobbly part off. As he yelled out “Pole is fixed,” the entire audience burst out laughing.

Is there something in your setting that is broken down? Makes noise? Take that stair or door or window and mock its problem. Is it a creak or a crack or a wobble? Sometimes just the slightest noise can be tremendously funny when the author focuses on it and attempts to describe or fix it in an unusual way.

What about an object in your scene that is just absolutely ugly? A chair? A wall? A car? I remember once trying my best to describe a pink kitchen. But “pink” is such a boring word. So I asked myself, “What reminds me of pink?” And the light went on in my head. Pepto-Bismol.

Yes, that’s quite pink and certainly is probably an image that most readers will never forget. And guess what? It probably made you snicker as you read it. So in describing the color of an object (or even a character’s hair!) get creative. Instead of saying “deep forest green” try something like “it was greener than the stinkiest swamp in Louisiana.” I would be willing to bet that it will make your reader giggle and remember the color of that hideous chair in the corner.

I hope this has given you a few ideas and maybe they will invoke a tiny bit of light-hearted laughter from a reader.  So, the next time I am sitting in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport waiting for my twice-delayed flight, I look forward to laughing out loud as I read your next novel. And don’t worry about the aliens, all they wanted at Tastee Freeze was frozen custard.


Georgiana Hall (GG Hall)

Georgiana Hall (“G.G. Hall”) is the author of the novel Hershey- A Tale of a Curious House Rabbit and the sequel, Trouble in the Attic. A retired physics and astronomy professor, she has written numerous editorials which have appeared in USA Today, the Miami Herald and others. She and her rabbit novels were featured in an article by pet columnist Sharon Peters in a USA Today article in January 2011.

She and husband Oren, also a retired professor, share their Colorado springs home with 2 cats, a rabbit and 3 birds. Currently, G.G. is  working on a third Hershey novel as well as several other young adult novels.

 

Sweet Success for Bowen Gillings

Hooray for Bowen Gillings! His newest mystery, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, was originally released in May 2021 as an ebook and is now available in paperback. And, for a limited time, readers can download the ebook for FREE on Amazon.

A Night to Remember, by: Bowen Gillings

ABOUT THE BOOK 

After losing his lunch across Monterey’s Coast Guard pier, nervous newly successful writer Walter Straub wobbles aboard the Diego Wind for an evening cruise with a who’s-who of celebrity authors. It takes cocktails on deck, dinner in the captain’s wardroom, and whale watching at sunset before he finds his stomach settled, his nerves calmed, and his attention and affection drawn to lovely bestselling author Avni. All goes swimmingly until a guest goes to sleep with the fishes. Then more writers turn belly up. When those remaining look to pin the deaths on him, Walter must either sink or swim. Purchase an ebook or print book (or both) from Amazon.

Bowen Gillings - headshot with Fresh Starts

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Bowen Gillings is an award-winning author featured in PPW’s first anthology, Fresh Starts, Allegory e-zine, and the Stories Live!, Voices and Views, and Rocky Mountain Writers podcasts. He is an active member and former president of Pikes Peak Writers and a member of both Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The League of Utah Writers. Bowen loves travel, cooking, martial-arts, and a fine adult beverage. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Learn more about him and his fun, quirky writing at storiesbybowen.com and be sure to follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Sweet Success for Debbie Burke

By: Darby Karchut

Three cheers for Debbie Burke! Her suspense novel, FLIGHT TO FOREVER (2021 from Media Management LLC), is a finalist for the ERIC HOFFER BOOK AWARD, announced in April 2022.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

  Nobody tells Lou Belmonte he can’t hug his wife of 50 years. When pandemic regulations stop him from visiting his beloved Cameo in a memory care lockdown, he busts her out, assaulting two employees who try to stop him. The couple flees to a remote fire lookout in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Their daughter begs for help from investigator Tawny Lindholm and her criminal defense attorney husband, Tillman Rosenbaum. They’re in a race to find the aging fugitives before the cops do because Vietnam veteran Lou won’t go down without a fight. Purchase a copy through Amazon, Books2Read, or from your favorite independent bookseller.

Debbie Burke, Author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

  Debbie Burke is a suspense novelist, award-winning journalist, and blogger at The Kill Zone website. Her Tawny Lindholm Thrillers with Passion series plunges crime-solver Tawny Lindholm into fast-paced twisty plots with quirky characters and snappy dialogue, set against the rugged scenery of Montana. Visit the author at www.debbieburkewriter.com and follow Debbie on her author page on Amazon and on Twitter


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Building Believable Characters, Part 4

Determining the Perfect Number of Characters

By: Donna Schlachter

Now that you have your cast of characters, you’ll want to be sure they’re all necessary. And that they won’t overwhelm the reader. Or bog down the plot lines.

There are several other reasons not to have too many characters. Too large a cast, and you won’t have enough words per character to round them out and develop their personal arc, which can leave the reader feeling unfulfilled. Another reason to cut or consolidate characters is because your word count is too high. On average, each character other than the hero and heroine will add another ten thousand words to your manuscript.

Distill the Numbers

So before discussing how to consolidate your cast, let’s look at how the act of distilling the numbers will strengthen your stories.

  1. You can simplify your story by reusing story elements, keeping your story elements closely linked, and maintains familiar tropes and plots so your readers don’t have to learn anything new.
  2. Fewer characters usually means your story is more efficient when it comes to writing your story and staying on track.
  3. Limiting or reducing the number of characters will mean you spend more time on each character.
  4. Oftentimes, cutting the cast will keep the players in the same place, limiting the number of settings a reader has to recall.
  5. Using fewer characters also means reducing the number of points-of-view, so readers feel like they get to know characters better and there’s less hopping from scene to scene. Don’t overwhelm readers by introducing all the characters in the first few pages.
  6. With fewer characters, you can have characters involved in scenes more often, so readers don’t forget who is who.

So how can you know when you have the perfect number of characters? When you can put any two individuals in a situation and still hold the reader’s interest. That’s right. All of the characters should be so connected that it won’t be a huge leap to pick two from a hat and write a scene that makes perfect sense.

Some argue that seven characters is the best number, while others insist on fewer. However, if each of your seven characters fulfills a particular role, then that might be a number to aim for. While they might be labeled differently depending on the genre, here is a list of typical characters to choose from. Please note: you don’t need two of any of these as main or secondary characters, except if there are a hero and a heroine.

  1. The hero/heroine – the character the story is most about and who has the most to lose if they don’t achieve their goal
  2. The lancer – shares goal with hero/heroine, but proceeds in a different way.
  3. The Big One – often physically impressive and doesn’t mind throwing his/her weight around. But they aren’t long term overcomers. Minor victories are theirs; they don’t have the skills to win.
  4. The Smart One – foil to the Big One. Uses brain to overcome, not brawn. Skills are specialties and used only in that sense.
  5. The Old One – wealth of experience, but damaged as a result. Can come close to winning, but not quite by themselves.
  6. The Young One – has a lot to learn; makes everyone else look good. Good reason for another character to explain the jargon a reader might not catch first time around.
  7. The Funny One – manipulates the mood of the reader and other characters. Relieves tension after a scary scene.
  8. The Spiritual One – a peacemaker, sometimes with a unique outlook to diffuse tension or educate the other characters. Often is formed from a conglomeration of The Funny One and the Old One. But sometimes is just plain weird.

One thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter what each character does individually, but how they work together.  That process starts with the hero/heroine. When you define them skillfully, contrasting them to other characters, you will see ways to up the ante between the characters. Defining other characters through the hero/heroine also provides areas where they’re in agreement, and highlights places where they disagree. This tension is important to keep the story moving, make sure characters are changing along their story arc, and also to give you opportunities to set up those danger points that will ultimately lead to the Black Moment.

Sometimes authors conjure up a character they absolutely love. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as the character serves a purpose. Giving them a point of view doesn’t give them purpose. Every character must help or hinder the hero/heroine in reaching (or not) their goal. When we love that character, we write them into more scenes. Sometimes, without realizing it, that secondary (non-main) character ends up having more scenes than the main character(s). This leads to a loss of focus, too many plot tangents, and an unfulfilling story.

How Many Characters Do We Need?

That depends on the story. But here’s a check list:

  • Word count – shorter stories need one or two main characters, and one antagonist. Along with a main plot and perhaps one small subplot, there’s a 30,000-50,000 story. For a sweeping epic drama, of course, you’ll need more secondary characters and subplots.
  • Genre – mystery readers expect the sleuth, the antagonist/villain, a victim, and several suspects as secondary characters. One or two related subplots along with their own secondary characters will bring the book to 65,00-85,000 words. Historical books often have the hero/heroine, antagonist/villain, perhaps a handful of secondary characters, and a host of walk-on characters with minor roles. Other genres have their own rules. Read books in the genre you want to write in and take notes.
  • Style – romance and cozy mysteries like to create a sense of intimacy, which requires a smaller-scale cast, while a fantasy or international thriller requires more characters to create that sweeping or far-reaching mood.

How Many Point of View Characters?

Of course, your hero/heroine will always have a point of view in your—their—story. Choosing whether the antagonist/villain has a point of view depends on the genre. In romance, usually not. In mystery and thriller – yes.

Eliminate any viewpoint characters who don’t have anything to do with each other. Make the characters serve multiple purposes.

Make sure each point of view characters has a unique voice so the reader knows who is talking without having to attribute. Having too many might leave you struggling to differentiate between them.

Kill Your Darlings

So you’ve done your best, but you have too many characters. What to do?

Ask yourself:

  • is this character necessary to the story?
  • Am I telling the story from the proper point of view?
  • Is this character more important than the lead?

If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, you need to cut the character. Or you could combine them with another character and serve two purposes. For example, the Lancer could also be the firefighter with the karate skills needed to help the hero escape the locked room.

Conclusion

Sometimes you’ll just know when you have the right number of characters. And sometimes you’ll need to cut or consolidate the secondary characters so each one has the proper amount of time on the page; doesn’t overtake the hero/heroine; and contributes to the hero/heroine’s story arc.

Donna Schlachter, Headshot

About Donna:

A hybrid author, Donna Schlachter writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. She humbly admits she doesn’t always get the number of characters perfect, so she often spends a lot of time re-writing.

Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

www.DonnaSchlachter.com

www.DonnaSchlachter.com/blog

Resources:

Sweet Success for J.D.R. Hawkins

By: Darby Karchut

Congratulations to J.D.R. Hawkins! Her newest novel, DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD, was recently released from Westwood Books Publishing. This is the fourth book in her Renegade series, historical fiction centered around the American Civil War.

Double-Edged Sword, By: JDR Hawkins

ABOUT THE BOOK: 

The Civil War has ended. Confederate cavalryman, David Summers, returns home to Alabama, taking his new wife, Anna, with him. Upon arrival, he understands how much the war has changed him and has scarred his homeland. Faced with challenges of transition, he learns how to navigate his new world, along with the pain and trauma of his past. He is also forced to confront his foes, including Stephen Montgomery. Their hatred for one another inevitably boils over into a fierce confrontation, whereby David is arrested. Will the jury believe his side of the story, even though he is an ex-Confederate? Or will he be hung for his crime? Purchase a copy through Amazon.

J.D.R. Hawkins, headshot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J.D.R. Hawkins is an Amazon, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling, award-winning author. Several books in her Renegade series have won the B.R.A.G. Medallion and John Esten Cooke Fiction Award. She is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the International Women’s Writing Guild, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Pikes Peak Writers. Ms. Hawkins is also an artist and a singer/songwriter. Learn more about her at www.jdrhawkins.com and follow her on AllAuthor.com, FacebookGoodreadsInstagramPinterest, and Twitter.   


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Is TikTok for Authors?

By: Jenny Kate

Well, TikTok absolutely exploded in 2021. And it will continue that trajectory into 2022.

Does that mean you should be on it?

If you’ve followed me long enough, you’ll know my answer to that would be “it depends.”

  • Do you have your books written yet? If not, then write your books.
  • If you do, then do you have the time to learn a new social media platform? If you don’t, then don’t.
  • I’m not a fan of chasing the latest social craze. Especially when you’ve probably got another one down already and need to keep producing product to sell (re: books).
  • But if you have the books, the time and the inclination, then yes. Consider TikTok.

For a 100 million reasons, TikTok is worth considering for book marketing.

TikTok has almost 100 million users in the United States, and 86% of those are between the ages of sixteen and forty-four.

Nielsen did a study in 2021 and asked more than 8,000 TikTok users what they liked about the app.

The top answers included features users appreciated about the authenticity of the app over curated, ultra-unfiltered experiences on other social sites, and the app simply makes them happy.

In a world where the headlines are more often than not awful, TikTok a nice place to escape to.

Even more useful answers to the Nielsen study were:

  • Nearly 60% agreed TikTok is a place with a sense of community,
  • 84% agreed there is always content they can relate to, and finally,
  • almost 80% actually read the comments on posts and videos.

All of this is reason enough for you to consider TikTok as your social media platform of choice, or at least dabble with it.

It’s the Wild West right now. It’s about the only place on the internet where organic growth still means something.

Organically you can grow a following simply by posting every day or a couple of times a day or a couple of times a week.

Ultra-marketer Neil Patel gives TikTok until 2023 before TikTok becomes more like other platforms and we’ll start having to pay for growth, so if you’re interested, now is the time to jump in.

A couple of other features to consider about TikTok.

This platform is designed for the Every Person. Content is created by everyday folks, which makes it easier to go viral on TikTok. It’s all about relatability, and TikTok offers it in spades.

And the app isn’t complicated. It is rather easy to use. If you can use any social media outlet out there, then you can use TikTok.

If you’re an author, then following and using #BookTok is a must. Writers and readers both flock to this hashtag.

So, is TikTok for authors? Yes. The answer is an emphatic yes.

The best tips to get started are:

Follow Booktokkers to gather ideas.

  • Develop your own brand.
  • Use trends that other Tiktokkers are already using.
  • Just get started.
  • It’s a fun place to be.

I’ve seen history professors give history lessons (yes, in less than a minute); writers talk about their books, marketers give tips, and stylists provide how-to vids.

For more information on TikTok, check out these podcasts:

TikTok Storytelling: How to Stand Out from the Crowd

TikTok Strategy: A Proven Growth Plan with Jackson Zaccaria

How to Sell More Books Using TikTok


 

Jenny Kate

Jenny Kate is the founder of Writer Nation, an online space dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 19 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity. You can find her on her WebsiteFacebook, and  Instagram

Fragmentary Thoughts

By: Deborah Brewer

There is quite a bit of debate about the use of sentence fragments, or incomplete sentences, in prose fiction to create a voice that is frank, casual, and immediate. These sentence fragments are missing a subject (noun) or a predicate (verb). Some say fragments should never be used, because they are ungrammatical, communicate poorly, and make their writer look incompetent. Writers mistakenly believe fragments to be more invisible than good grammar when in actuality the fragments draw awkward attention to themselves.

Some counter, however, that genre fiction doesn’t need to adhere to the stuffy grammar of academics. Sentence fragments done well, are well and good, as evidenced by the fact that both genre and literary writers regularly take such poetic license.

What’s a writer to do?

Narrative voice punched up with sentence fragments is something we are seeing more and more in popular fiction. But as these casual, forthright sentences, are in essence, incomplete thoughts, we must ask whether they serve our readers well. When it becomes a question of style over function, I’ve had to ask myself, is “dysfunctional” a style I want to own?

Here’s what we know about George.

George was a tangle of emotions. Anger. Frustration. Shame.

The above sentence and fragments sound powerful on account of their rhythm, but do they communicate better than these complete sentences below?

George banged his fist on the desk. “Blast it all.” Bankruptcy was certain if he lost the Peterson account. He had to win it. To see his wife Margaret’s years of sacrifice come to naught would be unbearable.

One might argue that if the example were written in first person rather than third, the contributions of the fragments to a casual, frank voice would add weight to their inclusion. I contend. Swap George out for I, his for my, and the effectiveness of either set of lines remains unchanged.

I was a tangle of emotions. Anger. Frustration. Shame.

I banged my fist on the desk. “Blast it all.” Bankruptcy was certain if I lost the Peterson account. I had to win it. To see my wife Margaret’s years of sacrifice come to naught would be unbearable.

The Downside to Fragments

The main downside to fragments is that they leave a lot of meaning to be filled in by readers. Readers already must bring a great deal of imagination to a written story in order to manifest a three-dimensional world in their minds. I don’t want to make them struggle to decipher what I mean to say. I don’t want them to put my work down because my meaning is uncommunicative. I want them to relax and engage with my story.

The Upside

Despite the aforementioned negatives, sentence fragments can and do contribute to dialogue and first-person narrative in several positive ways. Many questions and responses require only fragments to effectively communicate. Fragments can be used in those instances in which words might not come readily to a character’s tongue, such as when they are reticent, hurried, confused, desperate, mentally impaired, or under physical stress. Fragments are also commonly used for emphasis.

This fragmented line without a speech tag, below, has an immediacy and a bite. It feels like it comes straight from the heart.

“So, what do you want me to do?” he asked.
“Nothing.” She rolled over and pulled her pillow over her head.

The following example demonstrates a character’s confusion.

They could hear someone breathing on the other side of the partition. “Bob? Joe?”

We don’t need them to say, “Bob, is that you? Joe, is that you?” to understand their meaning; because we all use truncated queries like these in our everyday conversations. The implied verb in this simple sentence construction is understood.

In this good example, a character is dying. You can almost hear him gasping.

He took a last desperate breath and spoke the words that, for her, would change everything. “Gold… Under the staircase.”

The character of a college professor might seem inauthentically stupid with lines like these.

The professor rolled his eyes. “The importance of grammar. A thing, generally. Except when not.”

A sentence fragment can make dialogue more emphatic, as in this example.

“I. Want. Ice. Cream.”

Be wary, however, of emphasizing a relatively meaningless word. This construction puts an undue emphasis on the word A, a relatively meaningless article.

“I want ice cream. A spoon, too.”

These lines, below, might work if they follow a running joke about the absence of spoons. Hopefully, the joke would have a strong enough setup to justify the awkward fragment at the end.

            “I want ice cream. And a spoon.”

This next example with an adverb works better, as the word emphasized with a capital letter carries enough meaning to earn its exceptional, fragmented place.

I want ice cream. Now.”

Don’t be Seduced by Sentence Fragments

Sentence fragments are seductive, so be forewarned, using countless fragments is a bit like using ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! in an email message. Both are great for emphasis, but as all emphasis, all the time, results in no emphasis at all, even using fragments often lessens their emphatic value. It’s best to save them, like exclamation points, for those few words you truly want to make stand out.

I asked a published author about sentence fragments. He said, unequivocally, that publishers are okay with fragments these days.
In every paragraph?
His answer was emphatically no.

For writing that shines with clarity and polish, consider using sentence fragments sparingly.

To eliminate excess fragments—

  • First, try to make a complete sentence with a strong verb.
  • Second, try to link the fragment up to the sentence before or after it, or both, with a comma(s), a colon, or a semi-colon.
  • Third, occasionally link the fragment to the sentence before or after it with an M-dash.
  • Fourth, on rare occasions, keep the fragment for characterization or emphasis.

Further Reading

Follow these links for further discussion.

Semicolons vs. Colons vs. Dashes

What is a Sentence Fragment?

Sentence Fragments: Use for Conversational Tone


Deborah Brewer

Deborah L. Brewer joined Pikes Peak Writers a decade ago, seeking help with a cozy mystery. When the novel was completed, she stayed for the camaraderie. Now she’s writing short stories. An editor for the PPW 2022 anthology,  Dream, Deborah contributes to Writing from the Peak to help fellow PPW members write better with more enjoyment, and ultimately, achieve their writing dreams.

Sweet Success for Trista Herring Baughman

By: Darby Karchut

Hooray for Trista Herring Baughman. She is pleased to announce her children’s fantasy, THE MAGIC TELESCOPE, is back in print! This revised second edition contains the original illustrations by Eumir Carlo Fernandez and a new cover design. Get your copy today only at Barnes & Noble Press. Keep an eye out for her upcoming books including HALLOWEEN NIGHT AND OTHER POEMS (available now on Amazon), ZOMBIESAURS, and PiRATS.

The Magic Telescope cover

ABOUT THE BOOK

Seth has his heart set on a new Gazer 3000 telescope for his birthday, but receives a second-hand one instead. He’s disappointed until he accidentally discovers that this is no ordinary telescope. Join Seth and his cat, Sinbad, on an out-of-this-world adventure! Pick up a copy from Barnes & Noble.

Trista Herring Baughman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trista Herring Baughman is a star-gazing, pirate-loving, dinosaur-digging country girl and children’s author. She grew up in Mississippi and has lived in Nebraska and Louisiana with her husband, sons, and critters. Visit Trista at www.booksbytrista.wordpress.com and follower her on Facebook and Twitter.


Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.