Lucid Writing Advice VII
by Antavius S. Flagg
Page 1 of 2
5 ways to know if you have passive voice and fix it
- Objects are acted upon
- Limited Dialogue
- Look for Was
- A feeling of being in the past
- The Answers
This article is a follow up on some of the topics I discusses in LWA V, but
yet it deals with a type of voice that many beginning writers stumble into, and
not by choice.
OBJECTS ARE ACTED UPON
Passive voice, unlike the more excited active voice, gives writing a sense
of going no where. The bad thing is that most writers don’t even know their
writing in the passive voice until it’s too late...when they finally relax and
read their work. In passive voice everything just happens, and objects are
acted upon. What do I mean by that? Look at the following passage in passive
The soccer ball was kicked by Alan.
Note how the soccer ball was kicked by Alan, and example of an object being
acted upon. Here’s that sentence in the active voice, and believe me its quite
easy to fix:
Alan kicked the soccer ball.
Now we have a feeling of action because we have placed this sentence into
the active voice. Here are more passive voice passages, and beside them their
counterpart in the active voice:
|The grass was stooped by the wind.
||The wind stooped the grass.|
|The glass was filled by Jamie with orange juice.
||Jamie filled the glass with orange juice.|
|The pizza was eaten by the eager friends.
||The eager friends ate
By now you should get the picture. Everything under Passive was being acted
upon instead of something making it happen. See if you can tell which sentences
1. The bark came from the dog.
2. The window was
repaired by dad.
3. Helen ate the popcorn.
The moon was round.
5. The covers were pulled by James
at the sight of the monster.
6. Valerie hopped onto the
7. The fortress seemed to graze the
8. He left the bucket of water where it was.
Orange and red was the sky.
10. Passive or active voice
is this sentence in?
Out of those ten, only 5 were passive. Do you know which ones? I’ll tell you
at the end of this article so remember which numbers you choose.
In this sentence I shall now contradict myself in saying that in some cases
the passive voice is all right to use; such as when a character has a flashback
or when you the writer want to describe something that happened in the past.
When writing these kinds of scenes its important that you don’t over use the
words ‘was’, ‘had’ ‘could’, ‘have’ and ‘been’. There are many more. Here’s a
passage to show what I mean:
He remembered the water hitting him. It had been a hot day then, and it
was supposed to get hotter. He would have brought his own swimming pool
wherever he went had he known that. But this pool, one his friends had, was one
he could swim in with more space. It could have been the biggest pool he’d
seen, but he’d seen a larger one somewhere else.
There’s a lot of ‘he’d’ , ‘ had beens’ and ‘ haves’. When you right
flashbacks just remember not to overdo the past.
Every story should have at least some dialogue and the more the better. In
passive voice there is sometimes a lack for someone speaking. This is done
especially when you want to describe one of your characters. What’s the main
way many writers do it? Well, they introduce the character and as soon as the
reader sees their names they beginning reading at least the next four paragraph
detailing that character from eye color to the way their hair blows whenever
the wind touches it. Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Antavius S. Flagg, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.