EDITED TO ADD: APPARENTLY I AM NOT WRITING ABOUT PASSIVE VOICE, AS IS NOTED IN THE COMMENTS. THIS IS WHAT WORKS FOR ME WHEN WRITING MY NOVELS. IF THIS TYPE OF HELP DOESN’T HELP YOU, THAT’S COOL. I HAVEN’T TAKEN AN ENGLISH CLASS FOR MORE THAN 35 YEARS. CHILL.
EDITED AGAIN: I CHANGED THE TITLE SO AS NOT TO MISLEAD ANYONE WHO IS A PURIST. IN MY OWN HEAD, TO WRITE MY OWN NOVELS I REFER TO WHAT IS DESCRIBED BELOW AS PASSIVE VOICE. IF YOU DON’T, I DON’T CARE IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY–MEANING YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAKE THE ADVICE I OFFER, YOU REALLY DON’T. I HOPE YOU ONLY DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, THE WAY I DO WHAT WORKS FOR ME.
THIS BLOG IS NOT A DEMOCRACY SO IN THE FUTURE, REPRIMANDS WILL BE DELETED.
See what I did up there in the title?
I work with a lot of beginner writers and showing them the difference between passive and active voice in fiction is usually a given. It’s a writing nudge that makes a huge impact and compared to all the varied intricacies of self-editing, this one is EZ.
But don’t kid yourself. It’s not only beginners who need the nudge. Even seasoned writers fall into the passive pit, so that nudge serves as a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder.
Today I’m going to share with you the how instead of the why. How to go about transforming your writing is key. You know why you’re doing it. And you likely know that the title of this post is true.
I think we gravitate toward passive voice because it more or less does the job — just not good enough. In my own efforts to rid my work of passive voice, I spend a lot of time DOING THINGS so I can choose not just a better word, but the right word.
I know I’ve said it before — I read aloud and act thing out, hence I do not write in public.
If I were revising a sentence, let’s say:
Betty took the book off the table and put it on her head.
You know what she did, right? Sure. But not exactly, and exactly is what we’re looking for.
Chances are I’d push away from my desk, walk into my bedroom, and proceed to take a book off the nightstand. There. I took it. But what else did I do? What word is better? I’d likely do it again and again. I lifted it, grabbed it, snatched it, removed it.
And if I were so inclined, which I likely would be, I’d put it on my head. No, I’d balance it, of course. Which I wouldn’t be able to do, but Betty would, and this isn’t about me.
Remember if you can’t picture it, it’s passive.