"The key was lost by Vance." = Passive voice is when the action in the sentence is performed ON the sentence's subject.
A better sentence is when the subject performs the action himself. = "Vance lost the key."
2. Do a word search in your ms for "AS" and reconstruct those sentences. When your sentences begin with a subordinate clause (often starting with the word AS), the reader can feel distanced from the story.
"As she ran by the coat rack, Tessa grabbed her jacket. "Rain, rain, go away!" she shouted as she pulled up her hood. She raced across the street as the first drops fell." = The action is suffocated.
Instead, try a more active construction. = "Tessa grabbed her jacket from the rack. The forecast called for rain. "Rain, rain, go away!" she shouted from the open doorway. A fat raindrop smacked her forehead. Tess pulled up her hood, stuck out her tonge at the clouds, and then bolted across the street."
The tips above were taken from pages 170-171 of WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES by Deborah Halverson.
What do you think? Do you consider subordinate clauses to be a form of passive writing? Do you use them?
I'm glad you qualified the note on "was" - it doesn't always indicate passive. A more positive clue is finding "was" and "by" in the same sentence.ReplyDelete
As for subordinate clauses, I think it depends on what the sentence is trying to do. Where fast action is called for, definitely watch out for those constructions. Just be aware that you should vary your sentence structure, and sometimes you actually want to slow the pace a little, or it could start reading like a monotonous stream of sound-bites. I think a useful skill to develop is to examine your MS in larger chunks - a page or more at a time - for overall pace and balance.
I use subordinate clauses a lot, though I don't think of them as passive. However, I always do the "was" search and try to cut down my passives. Interesting bit of food for thought here.ReplyDelete
Important distinction on "was" since you're right, it isn't always passive. Sometimes reconstructing sentences to get rid of "to be" verbs in general can make the pacing very awkward. But it's worth it to take the challenge and go for the stronger word choice.ReplyDelete
Do you find that Dummies book helpful compared to other writing craft books? I'm pretty selective on what craft books I pick up; so far Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass have been pretty good, and of course Stephen King's On Writing. I am always a little apprehensive about the YA angled writing books, wondering what information they bring that's unique.
Thanks for the tips. I'm pretty good with the 'was', but I have a tendency to use 'as' way too much.ReplyDelete
Oh poor "was". It never gets respect.ReplyDelete
Good advice! I love the Find tool :)ReplyDelete
Wonderful insights. Thanks.ReplyDelete
I use sub-ordinate clauses sparingly - I don't think they'd be a problem for passive voice unless they crop up every paragraph or so.ReplyDelete
Wonderful post. Thanks to some pretty brutal and absolutely wonderful critique partners, I'm getting better about this. It's amazing to see what a sentence looks like when you remove certain words. Now if I could only apply some of this to the way I talk...ReplyDelete
Yep, I"m guilty of it and have to weed them out after numerous times of revisions!!! Great reminder to be on the lookout. I really need to read that book!!ReplyDelete