I meant to finish up with fragments last week but life intervened, and I had to “deal” with those crises. Now, I’m back to finish the talk of fragments with my favorite use of fragments: foreshadowing.
In Nineteen Minutes, Josie’s biggest issues are her nonexistent relationship with her mother and fights with her boyfriend, Matt. After making up with him after a fight, she feels good about life.
“I’m lucky, she told herself, the word streaming like a silver ribbon through her mind. Lucky, lucky, lucky” (Piccoult 10).
Within hours–pages in the book–Matt will be dead along with nine other people she knows, Josie in the hospital and her world forever altered. The refrain of a one word fragment foreshadows the irony of what happens to Josie and her life.
A fragment can be used within the action emphasizing the moment where an event occurs that starts a chain of events in motion that foreshadows the complicated levels of an event of simplicity. In The Innocent, two young men are leaving a frat party when something silly becomes something not funny at all.
That is when some of his beer spills. Not a lot. Just a splash. But it’s enough (Coben 2).
That splash leads to a fight, which becomes involuntary manslaughter, which means a prison sentence for the main character. The short fragments foreshadow tragic events to come in the story of Matt Hunter and emphasize the trivial nature of the inciting event, a simple beer spill–not even a lot–which leads to a significant life change for Matt.
The fragment, long the bane of grammarians everywhere, is also the stylistic equivalent of an exclamation point for the writer. It provides style opportunities for adding a layer of simple to complex distinctions. It adds a level of fear or concentration or rhythm. The fragment is one of the writer’s tools and if used effectively can bring the reader and writer to a common understanding. If not used correctly, the reader is too aware of its presence. We walk a delicate balance when using this tool in our prose.