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It’s hell on the weak when the strong are around…

We’re almost to the end of the editing tips journey, aren’t you happy?  This visit I thought we’d examine the infuriating world of strong versus weak, or what some like to call, active versus passive.  Many of us spent years in English class learning the difference between verbs that sit there and do nothing and those that rise to the top and poke your eyes out. 

Every writer faces this challenge and every reader has hit those passages that make them want to scream, “Just do it already!”.   No writer wants their reader to get bored and move on. That is not our goal as story tellers. We want our readers to stay up late through the night to finish “…just one more page” regardless of the fact that at the crack of dawn you have a meeting your entire career hinges upon.  That’s why there’s such thing as coffee and make-up.  It’s so much easier to dump artifical nerves and spackle on skin tone cover up to dimish the impact of exhaustion.

The key to recognizing and beating the crap out of passive voice is not to add -ing to every verb in your sentence, but to make your sentences do something.  For example, in Shadow’s Edge (deal with folks, it’s my first book and this is where all the really good lessons are coming from!) my editors kindly pointed out this particular sentence was way too passive:

Natasha’s look was unfriendly.

The best way to smack that line into submission and make it do something:

Natasha threw her an unfriendly look.

Can you hear the difference?  The first draft is almost eerily (No,E,  I’m not calling you home from the Werewolf Monastary! By the way, bring me back some Blood Red!) to close to telling versus showing.  See how well all these little pointers merge together!

Here’s another example (yep, from Shadow’s Edge):

Gavin and Talbot continued talking for couple of minutes.  Then Talbot was shaking Gavin’s hand and saying good night to Raine.

A few tweaks and viola! New and improved:

Gavin and Talbot continued talking for a couple of minutes.  Then Talbot shook Gavin’s hand and said good night to Raine.

See how it moves your scene, makes it more “real”?  Using the word “was” means you’ve begun to travel down that passive trail and meander into some boring territory. Spice it up, people. Kick it around, make it scream for your readers. 

So remember, when your writing starts to chicken out, put it in a cage fight and knock “was” out of the ring.  Trust me, you’re readers will love you for it!


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1 Comment

  1. Blood Red for Wicked. You got it.


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