1. miss_darcy
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    miss_darcy Member

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    Using the active voice?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by miss_darcy, Aug 15, 2010.

    Alright, so I have this little problem with finding it hard to write in active voice without it being awkward. Sometimes, I just can't get my point across that way. And I've heard that it's the only way to make the reader feel like they are in the novel. But do you think if I don't use an active voice that I can still make the reader feel like there right there using a fair amount of description and action? If not, is there something I can do to make using active voice easier for me?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read you are a history major. That hampered my writing seriously intially and I really struggle when writing historical fiction. I remove myself from the writing too much. If you don't want to change your writing I recommend Antonia Fraser, Michael Hicks and David Starkey. In my opinion these three are the best writers of history we have, they tell the story as part of he history, their books engage me as a reader. I think if you have a style similar to theirs it would be perfectly possible to take your story that I have read the prologue of and turn it into a story in a history book. I have decided to do this for a ghost story I am writing for a competition. Also I love Raymond Chandler his books have this feel as well.

    If you would like improving the active voice I find the following help me:
    1) Meditation - just basic breathing to relax and then visualising the characters and the world around them.
    2) Finding a muse, I currently have a song I am playing a lot that helps
    3) Writing first person present tense - I can't remove myself as I am the story
    4) Knowing and loving your characters, and the world around them. Build a relationship with them.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Without seeing the actual writing, I can only guess. But the key to active voice is identifying WHO is performing the actiom, and WHAT the action is. Subject and verb are the foundation of the active voice sentence.

    Captain Hawke led the charge. He spurred his horse forward, his sword raised high.

    Abigail tended her garden to keep her hands and thoughts occupied. She imagined each uprooted weed as another worry conquered. More would come, but not today.

    Not every sentence need be active, though. If you need a mix of active and passive voice sentences (undoubtedly you will!), try to make most paragraphs begin in active voice.
     
  4. miss_darcy
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    miss_darcy Member

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    Thanks for the advice guys! I'll definitely keep that in mind when I'm working on re-writing my prologue! :)
     
  5. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    That can be awkward. Take for example an action sequence written in passive:

    Tom was slapped by John. Then John was kicked by Tom. Their fight was seen by the teacher and both the boys were punished.

    This makes the reader distant from the action and the repeated use of 'by' (which you have to in such cases) will be tiresome to read. But I think you already know this and I also think you know how to structure a passive and an active sentence. What you seems to be saying is that passive sentences comes naturally to you while writing. First you have to try to get rid of that habit (only solution: practice), until then you just write the first draft in whatever sentence structure that comes naturally to you, and later on you can convert those passive sentences into active (that will be a good practice as well to get rid of your habit).

    John slapped Tom and he kicked back. The teacher saw them fighting and punished them.


    Doesn't this sound much better?
     
  6. miss_darcy
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    miss_darcy Member

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    Yeah! That really does sound better! Thank you for the advice! :)
     

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