Keeping Your Writing Active
By Gail Gaymer Martin
Suspense, mysteries, and westerns aren’t the only genres that need action. Keeping your story filled with action-packed verbs helps the plot to move and helps create a page-turner. Passive voice is only one kind of inactive writing. Selecting inexplicit verbs and deadwood sentence structure also stops authors form creating a moving, active story.
The English class definition of passive voice is exchanging the positions of the subject and the object in a sentence. In active voice, the subject is doer; it acts on something. Example: The child picked up his toy. In passive voice, the subject receives the action. Ex: The toy was pickedup by the child. Or ”The note was signed by him” rather than “He signed the note.” In most cases, the subject should carry the action, but on occasion when who did it isn’t as important as what was done, then use the passive. ”Twenty size children were injured in a school bus accident.”
Notice the word “was” in the first example. The “to be” verbs, such as: is, was, are, were, be, been, are usually connected with passive voice. Still, writers should not totally exclude these verbs in their writing. The “to be” verbs are often needed in predicate nominative and predicate adjective sentences, like, “She was beautiful” or “He was quiet. They were soldiers.” Though the author is smarter to show her beauty (Her beauty touched him) and show his quietness His silence disturbed her). When those ideas are not the focus of the sentence but only a lead in to something more important, then use the passive voice. Still an author should avoid passive voice when possible.