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  1. #1
    Terri D
    Guest

    getting back to why we are here...I have a question

    I've just completed a "blue" search trying to find anything on passive vs active voice posted in the last 90 days.
    All I came up with was one post..that turned into--what else?--an arguement.
    If there is another keyword to try aside from 'passive/active/is-be-was/or even granny' please let me know.
    Anyway, I have been told I write in the passive voice (I never noticed it before.) So now, I need to change to active voice. Aside from 'was/is/had/be' what other words do I need to look for in the 54000 I've already written?

    Man! Just when you think it's safe to put the manuscript away!

    Thanks all.

    Terri D



  2. #2
    Brady Boyd
    Guest

    Re: getting back to why we are here...I have a question

    Look for every "that" and remove those that don't have to be there.

    Remove "then" if you can.

    Change "Could VERB" constructions to the pure verb form if possible. "He could see she was getting angry" = "He noticed she was getting angry". How does this sound? "He could notice she was getting angry." Not good, eh? Don't use "Could VERB" constructions unless you are focusing on the ability of seeing. "He could see after the nurse removed the bandages from his eyes."

    Brady Boyd

  3. #3
    Lindi
    Guest

    Passive Voice

    Also select "exact phrase" and enter "passive voice" and do it for all dates. I got a lot of results, and yeah, a lot of the threads seem to end up in arguments.

    Anyhoo -- what I try to do is eliminate all was/ing usage, such as "he was walking," to "he walked."

    I also try not to say, "as he," or "as she" too much. I just have them do whatever they're doing and leave the 'as-ing" implied rather than stated.

    I try not to us "of" too much, such as, "The tip of the cigarette was lit by the match." I just say: "The match lit the cigarette."

    I was told somewhere, maybe behind a seedy bar, that the problem with passive voice is it distances the reader from the character's POV and can make prose sluggish and clunky. So my goal at least is to put the reader right in the character's moment. Speak in the moment almost as the character, just as up close and chummy to the character's mind as possible. "The boat sailed," not, "As the boat was sailing," etc.

    And I think, once we know how not to write in passive voice, it's probably time to start writing in passive voice in the right situations, because it can be quite poetic if used carefully. That's just my approach anyway. What have you been trying that works or doesn't?

    ~ Lindi

  4. #4
    Jack Hinks
    Guest

    Re: Passive Voice

    To get your arms around the passive voice and what's troublesome about it, think of Henry Kissinger's great sentence, "Mistakes were made."

    Here, as you see, the passive voice permitted the former Secretary of State to make "mistakes" into the subject of the sentence, an evasive tactic without parallel. (Better for him and his cronies to sa,y "Mistakes were made," than, "Dick Nixon, Al Haig, and I made mistakes.")

    See the difference?

    Please don't make the mistake of believing that all uses the verb "to be" are instances of the passive voice. They're not. See?

    -- JH

  5. #5
    Michael
    Guest

    Re: Passive Voice

    That's correct Jack.

    No reason you can't say: He was tall. Don't rewrite it to say: His height soared over the average man. Can't get too carried away with it, but when your stories are riddled with "had written" or "was walking" or the even worse "had had" when you could have said "wrote" or "walked" or just plain "had," your story is much better off and the active voice is much stronger. But don't go eliminating every was or were in the piece, otherwise your story will become stilted and forced.

    Michael

  6. #6
    Granny
    Guest

    Re: Passive Voice

    Many people don't really understand what "passive voice" means. So, they could be saying you write in passive voice and actually mean something totally different.

    What they *might* mean is that you are too wordy...using more words than necessary in a given sentence (often this is combined with unusual uses of different kinds of phrases). If they are actually using the words "passive voice" -- they probably mean you are using wordy verbs (not passive voice). So check to see if you verb is the most specific, and best VERB TENSE you could choose for the sentence. If your verbs seem automatically to come with an auxiliary, you are probably using wordy forms that are weakening your sentences.

    They *might* mean that you use simple linking verbs too much. Again, this is not *passive voice* but is often called that. So check your sentences that use simple linking verbs such as "He was tired. She was queen of the ball. etc" and see if you can use an action verb instead of a linking verb WITHOUT sacrificing meaning or flow.

    They *might* mean you have developed a fondness for progressive tenses. This often happens with writers who are trying for a sense of immediacy. A progressive verb looks like this: "She was washing clothes while he was chopping wood." Ask yourself, does that sense of continuing action bring enough to the sentence to be worth weakening it with the extra words? "Was starting" or "was beginning" are also big offenders that are often mislabelled as "passive voice."

    If they really honestly truly mean *passive voice* --then they are saying the subject of too many of your sentences is not the one doing the acting in the sentence.

    This is passive voice:

    The house was battered by the wind.
    [The house is the subject. It is not doing anything. Who is doing something? The wind -- often in passive voice you will see the "active party" being shunted off into a by so-and-so construction. To render this sentence in active voice, you would say: "The wind battered the house."]

    The man was killed in the accident.
    [The man is the subject but he is not doing anything but is being "done to" -- the actual active party is not even in the sentence. To render this sentence active voice -- since we don't know who the killer is -- you could say "The man died in the accident."]

    Passive voice is not evil. Neither of the above examples is overly wordy or weak. But passive voice (if chosen poorly) can result in stilted awkward sentences. That is why it has become vilified by writers. And since stilted, weak, awkward sentences will slow down your prose and bore your reader, they ARE worth hunting down and changing. How passive voice got blamed for all writing woes, I don't know...but don't assume that just because someone says you use passive voice too much, that they actually mean passive voice. They probably mean something about your writing seems wordy or awkward or even weak when they read it.

    Gran

  7. #7
    Terri Dunham
    Guest

    Re: Passive Voice

    okay...I get what you are all saying...really I do.

    I've been going over the part of my mms I had someone read, hence saying I wrote in passive.

    I can't post it all, since it's a love scene and they're are minors afoot, but I will place a sentence that to me seems the way to go. what do you think?

    "Casey met him thrust for thrust, her body yielding under his.
    Her head was spinning,her blood raging hot. A cry escaped her lips."

    Would I change that to 'her head spun'? somehow..it doesn't sound as good.

    ~~Terri~~

  8. #8
    Terri Dunham
    Guest

    Re: Passive Voice but a BTW

    one more thing...is it still passive if you're speaking of the past? For instance, the person is reflecting on a past experience?
    I know I'm starting to sound dumb here..but teacher said..the only dumb question is the one not asked!

    Thanks again

    ~~Terri~~

  9. #9
    Michael
    Guest

    Re: Passive Voice but a BTW

    No. You can look to the past and still be active. Passive just means you are not allowing the subject to do the action, as Granny said.

    M

  10. #10
    Granny
    Guest

    Re: Passive Voice but a BTW

    "Casey met him thrust for thrust, her body yielding under his.
    Her head was spinning,her blood raging hot. A cry escaped her lips."

    None of this is passive voice.
    "Her head was spinning" uses a progressive tense and that is one of the things most often mis-labelled as passive voice.

    If you wanted to make it less wordy and more direct (which is what folks are trying to tell you when they say "passive voice" -- they just don't know how to say it) you could say
    something like:

    Dizzy, her blood hot, she cried out.
    Now, that is probably too direct for your voice...but it is the most direct (thus the furthest you could go in the opposite direction from what people are critiquing.). The more direct you are -- the more harsh, but also the more powerful. Few words will always pack more blunt punch than many.

    "Her head was spinning" is one of those things some editors just really hate since if you take it literally, you have this kind of Exorcist image. So you probably do want to change that somehow to convey the same information -- namely that she was light-headed, dizzy, or some similar sense.

    A cry escaped her lips. <-- this is another thing people are calling passive since it is a "artsy" way of saying "she cried out" or "she yelped" or "she moaned" of "she shrieked." Being more direct would also allow you to be more specific and more powerful. But again, it's your call. It's always your call. Your voice is probably somewhere between very blunt, very powerful, almost savage and being very verbose, very flowery, almost dragging -- virtually every writer falls somewhere in the vast continuum between these two. If you are getting a lot of crits for "passive voice" -- you probably need to nudge your writing more toward the blunt edge of the continuum.

    Gran

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