Today’s tip seems to be a big pain in the neck for all writers. Aspiring, and multi published alike.

Passive Voice: Is basically a second hand report of what has happened.  Passive voice is best served as a brief summery of details that are too small for there own scenes, but vital to the plot. Also used for Narrative Summary. It also goes hand in hand with and usually is telling.

It”s a great, effective way to cover a large time skip, or a good place to add some internal monologue {where your characters reflect on what happened and make their next decision.}

Be warned, too much passive voice leads to bored readers and draggy chapters.  Bored readers, lead to lost sales, leads to lost contracts, well… you get the idea.

Now, let’s go over a few surefire warning signs that the writing is passive:

1. Had been, or was followed by an active verb. {such as “had been sitting”, or “was running”} {This is one of the biggest warning signs.}

2. Words like she looked, instead of she saw. Or, He walked, instead of he strode. {Another strong indication the writing is passive.}

Active Voice:  Adds action to the scene. That is what it boils down to.Also known as showing.  Rather than telling us “he’s angry”, we show his anger through his actions {jaw clenched, swiping books and stacks of papers off his desk, ect}. It pulls your readers into the scene, making them feel like a spectator in the scene.

Be warned, all action and no reflection also makes for bored readers.

Now, let’s discuss some key ways to know the writing is active:

1. The action is unmistakable, and clearly shown.

2. Use of strong action verbs {tantalized, ravaged, discovered, ect}

This isn’t in any of the writing books I’ve read, it’s just my take on things. Honestly, I hate all the technical explanations. I prefer something that really drives the point home and for me, this is it. Boiled down to the bare bones, without the technical mubo jumbo, lol.

Here is what I tell everyone I critique for when I explain why we need to balance them:

As writers it is our duty to find a way to balance the passive with the active, and that varies by story.

This is where we go forth and apply the age old adage: practice, practice, practice.

What do you think of the first Writers Wednesday Tip? What is your take on this subject? Did I explain clearly? Did I miss anything? Feel free to speak up. :)

About kittyb78

Catrina Barton is a licensed Kung-Fu Instructor of the Black Dragon style, and draws on that experience to make her fight scenes both realistic and action packed. She enjoys being surrounded by the stark beauty of mother nature. Whether it's a moon-lit starry sky, or a picnic by a peaceful waterfall cascading from the mountain side. Growing up no matter where she was physically, she always had at least one book in her hands and spent every free moment lost in a book. It's only natural that as she grew up, her passion for reading grew into an even stronger passion for writing, especially Young Adult Paranormal Romances. She is a proud member of many writing and marketing groups, and an active participant at Critique Circle and several other crit groups. Favorite personal quote: "An author cannot grow without both constructive criticism and encouragement."

9 responses »

  1. Jeff Dawson says:

    Nope, I belive you’ve covered quite well. This is subject i”m diligently working on as I slap my monitor in frustration as the characters refuse to listen. Good points.

  2. Hi Kitty:
    You’re off to a good start. The article is direct and not too long.
    There is one thing (I hope you don’t mind) I’d like to point out, and only because I’ve been studying Janice Hardy’s rules of writing,–www.janicehardy.com. We shouldn’t even use the word “saw”. It’s actually telling. For example. “Susie saw Ryan slap George’s face.” How could this be tightened? “Ryan slapped George’s face. Susie gasped.” Let me know your thoughts.

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