Saturday, May 23, 2009

All you authors out there...

I was in a session yesterday at CONduit where they talked about active voice/passive voice. The difference can be seen in the following.


The chair moved by the robber.


The robber moved the chair.

Active = good. Passive = bad.

You can find passive voice by searching for words such as was, is, were, be, been. But my question is do you get rid of all of these? What about this sentence? It comes from the first page of my book.

While the bench was ordinary, the piano itself was most certainly not.

How do you cut those instances of the word 'was' out? I could say 'ordinary bench', but the whole point of the sentence is to state that the bench is ordinary. Just saying ordinary bench is not a complete sentence.

And what about this one?

Rafter knew he was grinning like an idiot, but he couldn’t help it.

I could change it to

Rafter grinned like an idiot, but he couldn't help it.

But that changes what I'm saying. Rafter is self-aware of the fact that he is grinning. So should it be:

Rafter knew he grinned like an idiot, but he couldn't help it.

But that doesn't seem quite right.

I don't know. I don't think I should be cutting out every 'was' in my book, but how do I tell which ones? I still have hundreds left, and I want my manuscript to be tight.

1 comment:

Kristi Stevens said...

Sometimes you want to use the passive verb if you are expressing a passive emotion. For example if Rafter is smiling like an idiot but he couldn't help it, isn't he acting passively? I'd say that one could stay.

The piano example? Hmm. I'm sure there is a way to strengthen it. Even though pianos without a pianist are
quite passive.

Omit all passive verbs but the ones specifically intended.

At least that's what I do. :)