Up until recently, I've just used commas whenever it felt right, when the story's narrative voice gave a pause. Now it looks like I've been comma slicing all over the place. Yet sometimes, I'm not sure if I sliceing or dicing.
For instance: Jake shook his head as he skimmed, his fists tearing at the paper.
Or: Jake sensed as he stepped outside himself, that is, he was two selves, present and present.
Or: He had lived his life respecting the police, like the time they told him to move his box from 36th street, he moved it without a gripe.
Perhaps in that last instance a semicolon would do better, but then again, for some reason, I can't overuse. I'm afraid to exceed the semicolon quota.
What are some simple ways of identifying misused commas? Much info on the web is not geared toward fiction, for there is a difference between fiction with its narritive voices and impersonal non-fiction.
You might find some of the information you're looking for on the National Punctuation Day web site or the Chicago online web site, referenced in your other thread. And again, a good reference book comes in handy often.
I suspect you mean "splice," though, not "slice." It's when you use a comma to join independent clauses instead of a semicolon.
Example: Clarissa killed the evil robot monkeys, she used her laser rifle, they were really evil.
Do you have a copy of Strunk and White's Element of Style? They have a very nice section on commas, which seems as relevant to fiction as any other category.
I love commas. I put them everywhere. Then I take them out. Then I put them back in. Does anyone remember which writer characterized his day's work along the lines of, "This morning, I put a comma in. This afternoon, I took it back out."
All they will tell you is that if your comma is separating two grammatical sentences, it is a comma splice. They cannot list every possible combination of two grammatical sentences for you. If you don't know how to identify a grammatical sentence, try replacing it with a period and see if either resulting sentence is a fragment.
Supposedly you can always replace a comma splice with a semicolon. It's the punctuation equivalent of "through": A dumb rule designed to make sure intellectuals can tell who is really who. At least, that was my intellectual ex-brother-in-law's reasoning on the spelling of "through."
In the examples you gave, I only saw a comma problem on the last one (yes, a semicolon fixes it). In standard grammar, a comma splice is wrong, except when the sentences are very short and very parallel ("I came, I saw, I conquered" -- and I think in 2006 we'd use semicolons). Semicolons can be overused I'm sure, and I probably do it, but that's style, not "wrong." Breaking into separate sentences is also good.
I did see on the one about sensing a problem, but it wasn't commas; it was that sensing needed an object and I didn't find one.