1. Eleanora
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    Eleanora New Member

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    Using Passive Voice?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Eleanora, Mar 26, 2009.

    Okay, I don't consider myself a stupid person...but I don't get the passive voice thing. At least, I don't get it enough to really change my writing habits. I have been told many times that I use too much passive voice.

    Anyone want to take a shot at educating me

    Here is a snippet of my one of my stories. Can someone tell me if this is passive and examples of ways to correct it? I'd really appreciate some enlightenment...

    It was hot within the confines of his rage. She had never felt someone radiate the emotion in such magnitude. The king was right to fear this man. He was uncontrollable.

    Now he began to pace the room. His muddy boots landed heavily on the floor. Pieces of dried earth fell from their soles. The anger within him was growing. For five days she had traveled within him. He had never given any clues to the rising fury. Never had he behaved rudely to people he came in contact with. In fact, he had been particularly cordial.

    Suddenly, he stopped in front of the mirror in the corner of the room. His handsome face stared back. She had never seen it this closely before.

    “Get out,” he said flatly. Strange thing to say, she thought. “Yes, you. I can feel you acknowledge me.” Kikkima was startled. Was he referring to her? But no, it was impossible to feel a watcher. He continued, “We have a lot to talk about.”
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's hard for me to give definitions of active and passive voice, so I'll just give examples.

    Active voice: I kicked the ball.
    Passive voice: The ball was kicked by me.

    Here's another example -
    Active: He broke the vase.
    Passive: The vase was broken by him.

    Hopefully, someone else can give you a more clear definition if you're still confused. Also, I don't see passive voice in your example at all.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no passive voice used in that excerpt... what did you think was 'passive'?...

    here's a good explanation from http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/contents.html:

     
  4. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Maybe they meant that you tell instead of show?

    For example: It was hot in the confines of his rage, is telling. It's not a bad thing in my opinion, when used in the right places.

    You could show us what that sentence means. I can't think of an example because I'm not sure how it feels for her. Here is my imagination running wild.

    The heat of his anger pressed on me, closing around me. It grew tighter and more cramped in the confines of his rage.

    Is she uncomfortable? Does she think about ways to calm him down. I would think if she was uncomfortable, and she has the power to calm him down, she would be thinking of ways to do that.
     
  5. Eleanora
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    Eleanora New Member

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    Thanks all. I just can't stand it when someone tells me, don't write in such a passive tone, but they can't give me an example of a phrase I wrote in a passive voice and how to fix it.

    Yes architectus, you are very correct. Especially when I write fantasy I have difficulty showing instead of telling. When I write non-fiction it is much easier for me. Thanks again!
     
  6. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I agree with what some have suggested, but I do have some suggestions relating to your verb usage.

    Don't weigh down your writing with unnecessary words or clauses containing forms of the word "to be."

    Your: Now he began to pace the room.
    Could be made stronger: Now he paced the room.

    Your: The anger within him was growing.
    Could be stronger: The anger within him grew.

    The former example is more serious, in my opinion. You almost never want to tell the reader what your character "began to" do. You want to tell your reader what your character did.

    Another...
    Your: He had never given
    Could be: He never gave

    I'm trying to think of an example where you actually would want to do that, where you'd want to say what someone "began to" do, but I'm having trouble. All that comes to mind is, "He began to cross the forty mile desert, but after two steps he was hit by a truck."

    I'd also try to mix up your sentence length.

    Example:

    Now he paced the room, his muddy boots landing heavily on the floor, pieces of dried earth falling from their soles. The anger within him grew. For five days, she had traveled within him, and he never gave any clues to the rising fury. He never behaved rudely to people he came in contact with. In fact, he had been particularly cordial.

    You might also want to re-work to eliminate "on the floor." Simply cutting it doesn't seem to work without also replacing "heavily." "On the floor" is unnecessary unless he's Spider-man, since we know he's walking on the floor and not on the walls or ceiling. Perhaps, "his muddy boots thumping, pieces of dried earth..." That would add a sound quality ("thump" rather than "land") and still do the job.
     
  7. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    two simple rules of passives

    1) look for the 'by-phrase'

    the dog was kicked 'by the man' (long passive)

    2) look for a missing subject

    the dog was kicked (short passive) (ask, so who kicked the dog? 'the dog's' the object of the kicking, 'was kicked' is your verb phrase, but this time the subject has been missed out (by the man man).)

    Like already stated, though, you don't have any, though, sweets.;)
     
  8. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I don't think you wrote this in passive voice at all- normally you recognize passive voice right away because it's so awkward and out of place. (Very few people actually use passive voice...most of the time, when I see it, it's when someone forces it in order to make something rhyme in a poem and it just comes out awkward).

    My only advice is that in your excerpt you use way too many *had*s and *was*s. I read something written by a publisher once where she talked about how, if she counted twenty had/was's in a single page, that was enough and she didn't read any more of the submitted work. Most of the time those are words you can replace with something else in order to make the writing stronger. Just a suggestion :)
     

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