The Art Of The Sentence Bomb
Have you ever been reading along in a book, appreciating the author’s style, the story, the character and setting descriptions, when all of the sudden, out of nowhere, like a big pile of space debris that lands in your backyard, the author drops a earth-shattering bomb on the plot?
I’m sure there’s probably a literary term for this, but I can’t recall what it might be. So I’ll simply call it a “sentence bomb.”
Carson McCullers is an expert at this. At least three or four times during The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, she has thrown in one sentence–ONE SENTENCE–out of nowhere, that changes everything in her story.
For those of you who might want to read this book, I won’t quote an example from the book because it would be too much of a spoiler. So I’ll come up with my own amateurish example of what a sentence bomb might look like:
A bird tweeted. The wind whispered to the trees as Johan whispered in his lover’s ears. Abigail smiled. She placed her arm around Johan’s waist. They laughed. Another bird tweeted. A sniper bullet zipped through the spring breeze and split Johan’s skull. A leaf fell softly to the ground.
Do you follow?
I can’t tell you how good Carson McCullers is at executing these sentence bombs. One, in particular, occurs near the end of the book to close part two and just about left me breathless. I had to reread the sentence three times to believe it happened. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Is there a better, more literary, name for this technique than a “sentence bomb?” And have you noticed other authors doing this?