Regurgitation Wednesday… Passive Voice

Over the past five years that I’ve written, I’ve attented numerous workshops and conferences. Each Speaker has his/her twist on information that has been around for centuries…since the first cave drawings. I’m going to add my two cents into the mix.  I’m no means an expert, I just know what works for me. Most of the information I’m presenting is regurgitated from everyone who has spoken to me or I’ve read in the last few years.  No matter what you write,  some grammar issues never change.  When you submit, you want your MS as polished as you can get it.  Don’t worry, the editors and agents will give you more helpful hints to pull your MS up to the pedestal where it needs to be, but getting your foot into the door is key.

Content is supreme.  If your story has conflict, emotion, to die for characters, and you find the right person to love your baby then you’re golden.  But here are some tips that will make your novel a little more polished.

Passive voice.  This is about the style of your writing, your voice of the story.

Passive voice sentences are sentences that the verbs used aren’t in direct correlation with the subject of the sentence.  Most the times you can switch up the sentences make it mean the same but make the subject more active.  In doing so, your stories are stronger, more memorable and… in tune to what is on your bookshelves. 

According to Chicago Manual of Style: The passive voice is always formed by joining an inflected form of be (or, in colloquial usage, get) with the verb’s past participle.

Typically, you can pick out passive voice by searching your MS for the word “was” then looking to see if the word following ends in a “-ed”. Look for these verbs: is, are, am , was, were, has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being  followed by a past participle.

Here are examples that I’ve come across and ways to fix them:

He was tempted by her touch to move closer…. Her caress tempted him, drew him closer until he gazed deep into her eyes.

She was moved by the movie…. As the closing credit ran, she wiped the tears from her cheeks before the lights came up.  You could always say… The movie moved her to tears. But If you are going to tell the what’s happened, why not show it instead.

I was hit by a dodgeball…. The dodgeball hit me in the chest.

Houses were built……. The Andersens’s built houses.

 Stay tuned for next week. With another Regurgitated Thought.

6 Responses to “Regurgitation Wednesday… Passive Voice”

  1. January 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I’m notorious for using passive voice (I never check for it), and this post was probably the most straight-forward discussion I’ve ever read about it. Your one example really cleared it up for me. Remarkable! Well done. 🙂

    • January 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      Passive voice is one of those things that just sits there, because it’s voice and style. But after several keynote speakers and critique partners commented on this and that… I recognized my own mistakes. I’m glad my examples helped. Sometimes all it takes is one example for the light bulb to go off.

  2. 3 Holly Warren
    January 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Deb, sounds like what I do for grad school. LOL.

  3. 5 Dave Scheg
    January 27, 2011 at 12:20 am

    Hi Deb, Great blog. I’m in the process of setting my own blog up on WordPress. When I finally get it done, and I’m shooting for a 2/1 launch, I’ll let you know. When I’m serious about my editing, I use two or three different colored highlighters. One for -ed endings, one for -ing endings, and one for adjectives. Just those words. Then I read what surrounds them to see if I can or need to change the sentence structure or word choices.

  4. January 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I love Chicago Manual of Style, Deb! Your examples really reinforce why active voice makes a story much more vibrant. I need to double check my current WIP because I know I slip into passive voice without realizing it!!!!

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