HOW TO GET RID OF PASSIVE VOICE
Let’s face the facts. Passive voice doesn’t gain book sales. And if we are trying to sell our novels, then we certainly need to be more aggressive about ridding out books of their passivity.
So what is passive voice? It happens whenever the subject receives the action of the verb, rather being the noun that does the action of the verb. Confusing? That’s what the passive voice can do to our stories.
Here’s an example of an excerpt that is completely passive.
The ground was pounded by her fists. Streaming down her face were the tears. Letting Samantha go into the woods alone was something she should have never done. Answers were looked for by her. But found were none.
So yeah…that’s kinda’ exhausting to read. What’s important to note is that passive voice does not have to be eradicated, as some people would suggest. But it should only be used if we are not trying to display the immediacy of the actions that are being taken.
Notice how I used the passive voice in the paragraph above (except for the first sentence). My emphasis is on the “important to note” part rather than the “need to eradicate”. I could have written it like this: An important note is that we do not need to eradicate passive voice, as some people would suggest.
Note the difference. It’s more direct and demanding. We want the demanding tone in our novels most of the time. Let’s look at the example from above again. This time we are only going to use active voice.
She pounded the ground with her fists. Tears streamed down her face. She never should have let Samantha go into the woods alone. She looked for answers. But she found none.
The actions have become more immediate. There’s the sense that things are happening right now instead of the feeling that her experience is distant. Here’s the great part, though. If we use passive and active voice well, we can “yo-yo” our readers and give them a sense that we are pulling them into the present while pushing them into a slow-motion dreamy state.
Why would we want to do that? It seems that the immediate is what we are always going for. Nope. Have you ever read a book and felt too tense? Readers need a chance to process information, or they might become exhausted and start skipping parts of your work. And we certainly don’t want that. It’s like watching a 60 min fight scene in a movie. We think we like action until we are beat over the head with it.
Let’s incorporate the passive voice into the example.
She pounded the ground with her fists. Tears streamed down her face. Letting Samantha go into the woods alone was something that she should have never done. She looked for answers, but none could be found.
What do we want to show in this scene? Two things: we want to show her pain (immediate), and we want to show her feelings (pensive). When we understand the duality of our scenes, switching in and out of passive voice will bring a greater richness to our novels.
Thanks for stopping by. Hope you can read tomorrow’s post!