1 year ago   •   54 notes

Active v Passive Voice (#storiesshouldn’tsleep)

Active Voice is strongly preferred Passive Voice, though in a few exceptions if passive voice is done deliberately it can still work well.  (See Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger as an example of deliberate passive voice.)

Active Voice is having Characters interact directly with the story, their surroundings, therefore making characters the subject of the sentence.

Example:  Bill carried the couch.  Martha slapped the Doctor.  

Passive Voice is events happening to characters where they indirectly interact with the story, the surroundings, therefore making them the objects of the sentence, instead of the subject.  In essence, the characters find themselves acted upon, instead of acting themselves.

Example:  The couch was carried by Bill.  The Doctor was slapped by Martha.

Active Voice is generally better because Passive Voice distances the reader from the emotion and actions of the story by making something other than the main characters the center of attention.

Simply put, the difference between active and passive is

A causes B.  or  B was happened to by A.

Which is more straightforward and easy to understand?

How to fix passive voice:

  • Identify the correct subject of a sentence.  Who causes the action?
  • Reorder the sentence so that the causer creates the action.
  • Identify Helper Verbs [is am are was were be being been] and exchange them for more interesting verbs.

Potential Reasons for Deliberate Passive Voice:

  • In a first person narrative, the narrator might choose to distance themselves from the action because it is too emotionally painful.
  • If this is the case, remember to use this sparingly and extremely deliberately.  Otherwise, the reader will grow bored and disinterested.
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    Ah shit I’m really bad for this. Now I’m super aware of it.
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