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  • Jordan Keller

What I Learned At Writing Group: Passive Voice


If that same friend highlighted all my usage of passive voice in my first manuscript, I would have bought stock in the Highlighter company.


What is passive voice and, its superior cousin, active voice?


Passive voice is when your subject receives an action.


The book was read by Ashley.


Active voice is when your subject does an action.


Ashley read the book.


Active voice is clearer, less confusing, and keeps your prose flowing. As a fantasy writer, I want to keep an active voice so things are exciting and my reader can stay better connected with the character.


My rule of thumb for locating passive voice are the words “was,” “began,” being,” and “started.” Usually, those words are inside a passive sentence and a simple rearrangement makes it active.


Here are a few examples:


The building was being ravaged by a fire.


A fire ravaged the building.


Robin began to chase after the Riddler.


Robin chased the Riddler.


The second way to keep your voice active and avoid filler words is to remove any “she watched,” “he thought,” “they felt,” “she saw,” “he looked,” anywhere you find yourself explaining an action versus it just happening.


Examples…


She watched the car come to a stop at the light.


The car stopped at the light.


He felt like the world was spinning around him.


The world spun around him.


Once you recognize passive voice in your writing you’ll start avoiding it and naturally writing active sentences– it just takes a little practice.


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