One of the best articles I read recently, regarded writing in a passive or active voice.
Since I’m in the process of a major edit, I’ve noticed that I frequently write passively. That’s something I’m changing, and I’m amazed at the difference in the way my book reads.
Even though I’m writing in third person, and I use the word ‘was’ frequently, it’s easy to fall into the trap of always using it, and it’s not necessary. Let me explain…
Here’s a simple sentence: He was alone. Okay…that works. Cut and dry. (very dry) But, it paints a picture in my mind, and it’s alright.
But here’s what you don’t want to do: He was walking down the street going to the grocery store. (passive voice). To make this sentence active, change it to: He walked down the street to the grocery store. See/hear the difference?
Of course, these are made up, sample sentences, and not something I would put in a book. If I did, my readers would be bored to tears!
One of the first sentences I ever wrote in a book was: She had grown up there, and it was all she’d ever known. Learning what I know now, that sentence became: She grew up there, and it was all she knew. (But, to tell you the truth, I have completely removed that sentence, because it was in an ‘introduction’ to my book which has been completely eliminated!)
Here is another simple example: He was standing in the doorway.
The simple change: He stood in the doorway.
It’s always good to read aloud what you’ve written. If it flows off your tongue naturally, that’s a good sign. If it jolts you, and doesn’t feel right, then it will most likely jolt your
readers and you will need to look closely at what jolted you and fix it. It’s important to get your thoughts on paper, (computer), but remember that it can always be changed. It sometimes helps to walk away from it for a while. I’m surprised at how many times I can go back to something I wrote, and after re-reading, see exactly how I need to fix it and make it better.
If you’ve ever written a sentence that makes you wince each time you read it, it feels really good when you come up with a way to say what you mean in an “unwincable” way. (Yes, I know…it’s not a word!)