From Passive to Active Voice
If you are anything like me, your first draft is riddled with passive writing. What is passive writing? It’s when you are telling the story instead of allowing the action to play out for the reader. It’s when you use the words ‘was’ and ‘were’ and so on. I think it happens to all of us. Don’t worry about it. Write the book. Get the story on paper (or computer) before worrying about things like passive writing.
I’ll give you an example. Last week I was working on a new book. The first chapter is always hard for me. I wrote and rewrote page one to page ten on Bait. Every time I thought I was happy with it I would put it away and return the following day to read it. Again and again I needed to change things. Once I was happy with the way the story was going I started to look at my word choices. It was not a pretty sight. Passive writing started in sentence one. Here is my original sentence: Jessica was cold.
Seriously. I’m not kidding. I actually started my new book with Jessica was cold. Yuck! Almost makes me want to puke. To change this from passive to active, I rewrote the sentence. Here is my new sentence: The temperature in Jessica’s bedroom dropped thirty degrees.
Better. Much better. Now that was an extreme change. Most of the time I don’t start off with such a terrible sentence. Before tackling a tough rewrite, put space between yourself and your book. I like to take a week off, but a lot of writers say three weeks to a month is better. Take some time to breathe. Enjoy taking long walks or hot baths. Work on something else for a while. Then when you return to your book you can read it with a fresh eye and catch the passive writing. To be sure you caught it all, have someone else look it over.
Your characters should be real people to you. Watch them interact as if you are watching a movie. Then describe it to your reader, but don’t just tell them the story. Allow them to feel it. Crush strawberries on someone’s tongue, describing how the juices squirt into the back of their mouth. Hit them in the jaw with another character’s fist or knock them out of a tree. Give them a headache when their children are running across the living room, chasing each other and yelling.
Become more aware of words like ‘was’ and ‘were.’ Avoid them when you can and tighten your writing. Remember to allow your characters to breathe. Don’t tell their story. Show it to the reader. And happy writing.