I had an odd experience after finishing The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A book I loved. I have that book in my top five. (My top five has way more than five books in it, but still, that's saying a lot.) I read the second half in one sitting and soon after got online to read what others thought about it. Which actually isn't something I do that often, but I think that book made me want to connect with people. Most people loved it as much as I had, but a few people complained about how it was filled with sentence fragments. Now, to each his or her own, I didn't have a reaction to people having a different feeling from the book, but sentence fragments? I hadn't noticed any.
I told a friend about that, who'd read it, and he said. "You're a writer. You didn't notice all those sentence fragments?" I was so sucked into that story. I guess I was just way too far gone to notice any potentially annoying stylistic quirks.
Sentence fragments are tough, especially in this day of word processors that point every one of them out to the writers in the first draft. I try to go by feel when deciding on a sentence fragment, but I think those ugly colored lines in my word processor make me weed them out, for the most part. I still try to go by feel, but I end up using them almost as rarely as I use exclamation marks. I use them when not using them feels awkward, for instance, if I have a string of descriptive sentences that I feel need to be there, I'll make the last one a sentence fragment because it makes the rhythm feel right. And, in at least one instance, I used one for effect: a key moment in Courting Her happened in a fragment. I’m not going to include it here, not as a teaser, but because I want it, for any readers of the book, to stand out as a key moment but not to stand out as a sentence fragment. A sentence fragment, like anything else, shouldn't pull a reader out of a story, but also like anything else, because a sentence fragment pulls a certain reader out of a story doesn't always mean it shouldn't have been there. It just means it didn't work for that reader.
How do you feel about sentence fragments when you come across them as a reader, and how do you feel about using them as a writer?