1. Picaroon
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    Picaroon Banned

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    The front door was locked.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Picaroon, Apr 12, 2014.

    How do I write "The front door was locked." to avoid the passive voice? Or do I even have to? I'm explaining what the character saw.. but my grammar checker says it needs to be reworded.
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    The lock on the front door is fastened?

    I'm not sure if that works.
    What's the PoV you're using?
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The way you have it is perfectly fine. There's no good reason to change it (well, maybe there is, but that would depend on the context). Grammar checkers aren't always reliable, so you'll have to learn to use your own judgement.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    "I turned the knob, making sure it was firmly locked"

    "I checked the door lock for the tenth obsessive compulsive time."

    "I saw the deadbolt latched through the slit between the door and the doorframe"
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not passive voice. If the sentence were communicating the action of locking the door in the moment, like:

    The luggage was handed to the cabbie, the front door was locked by Jane, and then Jane and I went down the stairs.

    then it's passive voice. But if you mean

    The house was shabby and looked abandoned. The grass was un-mown. The front door was locked.

    that's not passive voice, it's a description, a statement communicating the state of the door. Your grammar checker just can't tell the difference.
     
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  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Grammar checker is full of crap. Passive voice has an important place in writing, particularly if the subject of a verb action is unknown or should be hidden.
     
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  7. Picaroon
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    Picaroon Banned

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    Ahhhh.... Okay thanks for this (and the other replies). I was starting to sense there was a distinction I should be aware of. It seemed like I was rearranging everything arbitrarily to avoid using 'was' or 'were' even when it seemed to fit perfectly.

    Love this forum... Back to work!
     
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  8. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    There is a lot of passive voice bashing in creative writing classes. Tell them to get lives, please.
     
  9. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Yep description is fine, although I believe if you are describing the scene through a characters POV then things like 'was' and 'were' should be avoided, but not always.

    John saw the door, and turned the handle. It was locked. He was annoyed as he needed to go inside. He went around the back and that door was locked as well. He was getting really angry that he couldn't go inside.

    John turned the doorknob. Locked. He rattled the handle angrily then went around to the back door. Locked as well. Damnit, how the heck am I going to get inside?


    Depending on the context it can fall into the realm of telling vs showing when you use those words. As an example, with a locked door, your character will have an emotion or a reaction. If was checking the door to make sure he locked it then he would have a certain emotion. Calm/relaxed/happy. If he was stuck outside he might be angry/annoyed/panicked. Maybe he got kicked out of the house by his wife and she changed the locks. Whole new set of emotions and reactions.

    btw, I reread your first post and you used the word 'explain' which indicates to me that this is going to fall into the category of telling. Not necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind as I tend to fall into this trap all the time. I quite often go through my manuscript and search for the culprit words manually, and rewrite any sentences that feel weak. I use a tool like ProWritingAid to find what I need to search for.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There are perfectly valid artistic and creative reasons for using passive voice in fiction. Active voice will do in the large majority of cases, but if you need passive voice, don't let some stupid rule prevent you from using it. @Cogito is right.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    [If I may sidetrack a minute]
    In consideration of your other thread question about filter words:

    He was annoyed as he needed to go inside.
    You might only say, "He needed to go inside." The reader can figure that would be annoying without being told. It makes 'needed to go inside' stand out over being annoyed.

    He was getting really angry that he couldn't go inside.
    Same here. 'He was getting angry'. We all overuse 'really' so you can leave that out. Leaving the reason he was getting angry out puts more emphasis on the anger.
    [/sidetrack]
     
  12. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    @GingerCoffee I agree to an extent but is there a line between when a filter word is irrelevant and relevant? Thanks for point out the use of the word 'really'. I tend to sometimes use -ly words and have a process during my edit where I look for every one of these words and consider their application and merit. In terms of using filter words like 'was annoyed', my first thought was that we need the reader to know what emotion is being experienced but then I came to the conclusion that it simply means that the choice of words around that section of filter aren't strong enough...

    Although I just realized you quoted my deliberately bad example. I realize I didn't elaborate there. The first section was a deliberate over-use of the words 'was' (which unbeknownst to me led to a slew of problematic writing associated with using that particular word as it's 'telling' and the second was a rewrite that took them all out and dove the POV into the character.

    By dropping into the characters POV I was able to show his anger by showing him angrily rattling the door handle then his thought at the end. To show a different emotion I could have him run his hands through his hair which would characterize an emotion of despair/panick, etc.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    There's no absolute rule about a filter word being relevant or not. The only thing is, quite often writing is better without them. We should probably move this discussion to your thread.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    But this isn't fundamentally different from

    John turned the doorknob. It was locked.

    You eliminated a couple of words, but the "was" construction hasn't been fundamentally changed. And that's fine, because there's nothing wrong with "was."

    Edited to add: And "It was locked." wouldn't be passive voice.
     
  15. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I agree.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the character can't SEE the door is locked, unless there's a padlock on it... and it's not passive, it's active past tense describing a state of being... if you wrote 'the door was locked by so-and-so that would be passive...

    better would be something like:

    The door was securely padlocked.
    or
    The door was padlocked, but the hasp was old and rusted, wouldn't take much to pry it loose.
    or
    He tried the door and found it locked.
     
  17. James Joyce
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    James Joyce Member

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    Do whatever you think is right, and what sounds right to you is what will be.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i see you've replied with that advice in at least one other thread, but that is not always true, james... many things are written that may have sounded 'right' to the writer, but do not sound right to the reader, because the wording is simply not grammatical, or does not make sense for some other reason... and when an agent or editor sees them, will not benefit the reputation of the writers...

    so, i'm sorry to say that i can't see that as being good advice... nothing personal, just my opinion as a longtime editor and writing mentor...
     
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  19. James Joyce
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    okay, but what I mean is if you are proficient in the language of English, then you should be able to play with it and do what you want with it. Given that, there should always be a good reason for whatever you do in your story. Also, no one matter what kind of writer you are, you are always going to have points where you lose a reader. That is always bound to happen, but if it's because of poor writing, that's on you; if it's because you did it intentionally, that's a different story.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2014
  20. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    @James Joyce I don't think you should ever intentionally lose a reader, but if you wrote something in your story that you knew would lead to the possiblity then that's different.
     
  21. James Joyce
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    James Joyce Member

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    Why not? Why should you never lose a reader?
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's a mighty big 'if'... and most who 'want to be a writer' aren't even close to proficient enough, to compete with the pros...
     
  23. James Joyce
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    Interesting, but I disagree completely.
     
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  24. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    @James Joyce Give me one good reason to deliberately alienate a reader. But perhaps you are simply referring to doing something that you know some people will love and some will hate. This is part and parcel of writing. For instance if you have a dog in the book some people don't like dogs, so they don't much care if the dog dies. Others who love dogs, or at least like this one, will not like it if you kill the dog. But that's not deliberately losing a reader, that's making a choice that has the potential to lose a reader.
     
  25. James Joyce
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    If I feel like it. That's a good enough reason for me.
     
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