Hey guys! Sorry I’ve been gone a couple of weeks, but I’m back with another action packed blog about stuff and things! To be honest, it’s rather difficult to find blog topics that haven’t been done a million times and by better people. XD Despite this, I’m going to talk about passive writing vs active writing from my own experiences.
Initially when someone told me about passive vs active I was confused. No joke. I didn’t even know where to begin. It never feels structured to me when people present it. So, as usual, I tried to organize some basic rules, so to speak, to keep in mind when writing or editing.
Just Write Anyway
Sometimes there’s so much advice floating around out there it’s hard to keep it all straight. A lot of advice is conflicting as well and despite the fact that I dish out a lot myself, I always say do what works for you. What works for some won’t work for others. I offer mine in the hopes of maybe helping someone or to bring up an idea they may not have thought of. I’m not in the business of expecting everyone to do as I do. I don’t think we should all write exactly the same because if we did, how boring! If you’re too busy thinking of the rules as you write it’ll interfere. So just write. Don’t think about verb usage or any other technical rule while you’re writing. Just pump that baby out.
Recognize Your Own Habits
Passive writing isn’t just about what words you use, but even patterns. I’m a sucker for -ed to -ing sentences. Or vice versa. I also use way too many “the”s and “that”s. Use variations in your sentence length. It might seem hard to notice, but if you’re really reading through your work you’ll notice the patterns. It’s easy enough to break up a long sentence into two or three to break up the monotony with it. If you can recognize your own passive writing habits, it makes them easier to look for and identify when you’re editing.
Speaking of Editing
This is where you’ll do the meat of your passive to active work. As mentioned above, don’t worry about these things while you’re writing. Get that story out. Finish it! The characters won’t mind, I promise. I’m going to throw out some phrases that you may want to replace if at all possible: had had, there was, s/he heard, s/he saw, s/he felt. There are some specific words as well. Check your “was” usage. Is it really necessary? Can you replace it with a better verb? Same with “had”. I use the find feature in word to look for trouble phrases or words and replace them when possible. Sometimes you have to use them, and that’s okay! The point is to not always use them.
Examples of Passive VS Active
Just like the picture above, I’ll lay down a few sentences to show as examples of passive vs active. I hope you enjoyed my purpletastic picture by the way.
1p) I heard a loud boom come from outside.
1a) An eruption down the street shook the frame of my house.
2p) I saw a pink flower blooming.
2a) Pink petals opened against dark green foliage.
3p) He was coming toward me.
3a) He ran towards me.
4p) She had a bad night’s sleep.
4a) She endured another bad night’s sleep.
5p) She felt cold in the wind.
5a) The bitter wind of winter cut through her jacket.
Things to try to replace: was and had (and for the love of Bob had had).
The five senses: heard, saw, felt, tasted, smelled.
Remove as many “that”s as you can.
Remove unnecessary “the”s.
Something extra about “was”. Usually “was” is before a verb, right? He was staring at me. She was walking away when I shouted after her. Most of the time “was” is unnecessary and you can simply past tense the verb after. He stared at me. She walked away while I shouted after her. A little tweaking can go a long way.
Until Next Time
I hope this helped and can be something you refer to during editing. Using the find function on your word processor can help as well as just being on the look out for these trouble words during your editing process. Also, don’t forget my novel Dragon Bloode: Covet is free at Smashwords until July 17th! Use coupon code: ZT57S. I’ll return next week and until then, keep on keeping on.