Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Writing Down the Bones: Passive Voice

The Passive voice. The he was talking instead of he talked. That to be verb is a pesky little thing and most of us don't even know we're using it. There is nothing wrong with it but a lot can slow down the pace of your story.

Once it was pointed out to me I started watching out for it. I actually used to go through chapter by chapter and highlight all the was's I had in a chapter and looked for a new way to write the sentence to get rid of the to be verb. That helped me remove a lot of them and taught me how to avoid them in the first place.

This is what I mean:

I was sitting next to my sister while my uncle was telling a story about my grandmother. Grandma was going through menopause and had been doing some goofy things. The story was about how she threw a plate of spaghetti at him, had it hit the wall and then she demanded to know how it got there. This was a new story and we laughed at the idea. I was glad I never saw that side of her.

The above paragraph has five sentences yet has six was's which I highlighted. Now I'm going to tell the same story again, but this time pull out those was's.

I sat next to my sister as my uncle told a story about my grandmother. One we'd never heard before. While going through menopause she did some goofy things. Her and my uncle argued in the kitchen and in a fit of anger she threw a full plate of spaghetti at his head, narrowly missing it. The spaghetti smacked against the wall. Five seconds later she berated him for the mess. I laughed as I silently thanked God I never saw that side of her.

Same basic paragraph, but to get around the was's I changed the sentences, making it more active. There are now seven sentences and no was's.

There is nothing wrong with the passive voice and sometimes you just can't avoid it but the more you remove the faster paced your story will be.

Barb:)






3 comments:

  1. Verb tense is one of the thorns in my side. I don't overuse "was" as shown in your paragraph above but I always seem to mix tenses.

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    Replies
    1. There are a lot of authors that do that so you're not alone - you could try highlighting those mixed tenses to help you fix them.

      Hope this helps

      Barb:)

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    2. That is a great idea. Thanks!

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