I've been finding more and more of these types of constructions in published fiction, and it really bugs me. There's nothing gramatically wrong with it, but it's just poor form, in my opinion. ESPECIALLY in a first-person narrative. People just don't talk or think that way. At least I don't.
Am I crazy? Do these types of constructions get on anybody else's nerves?
Would Hemingway begin a sentence with a dependent clause?
I'm with you all the way on this one, Jude. You're right, there's nothing grammatically wrong with them, but they're wishy-washy ways to get into the sentence. They lessen immediacy. I'd always rather read, "I tripped over Don's body as I walked into the room," than "As I walked into the room, I tripped over Don's body."
Actually, I'd rather do without the "as I walked" in either position, but I'm a little pressed for time right now.
I almost never try to write a sentence like "I tripped over Don's body as I walked into the room" because I like to orient the reader in the setting a bit better than that. Let's say the previous paragraph left the POV character inside a car--in which case the above sentence would be too abrupt a transition, and the reader's reaction would be, at least for a nanosecond, and nanoseconds of confusion are important to avoid IMO, "How do you trip over someone while inside a car?" So I see "As I walked into the room, I tripped..." as the better sentence. Better still perhaps would be: "I walked into the room and nearly tripped..."
Hemingway does open sentences with a dependent clause, usually via "when" as in: "When the wind was in the east a smell came across the harbor from the shark factory..." and "When the boy came back the old man was asleep..." and "When he was even with him and had the fish's head against the bow he could not believe his size."
Of course, if you write first person, you have to come up with ways of starting sentences that don't begin with "I". Eventually, you end up using all sorts of sentence beginnings to avoid the repetitiveness of "I".
In other words, it doesn't bother me so much because I know what those first person narratives are like to write.
This pertains to Pepper's comment, as well as BR's about.
I've seen writers (and do it myself) who get around the conundrum of starting too many sentences with "I" by assuming the "I" to be understood in certain places.
I walked into the room and saw Don on the floor. Felt for a pulse. Nothing. Turned him over. Saw one neat hole in the center of his forehead. Didn't bother closing the door on my way out.
That's an exaggeration for effect, and it wouldn't fit into every writer's style. (Hard to imagine a cozy written that way.) It may not be grammatically correct--okay, it's NOT grammatically correct--but it the personal pronoun is obvious, the flow of the writing may be improved by leaving it out.
Good example, Dana. You know, you can read all of Chandler, Hemingway, John D. MacDonald, James Lee Burke, and numerous other masters of the first-person narrative, and rarely if ever run across those crappy constructions.
I think it's a tool like any other. If you're going to use it, you need to learn how to do it well, how to make the dependent clause agree with the rest of the sentence, and when to use it. Yes, they can be overused, but when I find myself overusing them, I edit the extraneous ones out. I am not, however, willing to throw out a useful tool just because someone else insists they don't like the shape or color of it. When that particular sentence construction is done well, it adds necessary changes to the rhythm of the prose.
I do like using fragments. They can be particularly effective.
If you're seeing a lot of 'crappy constructions', I think you need to ask not only why the author isn't putting them together better, but why the editor didn't catch them. Especially the ones that are logically impossible.