Monday, March 07, 2011
What's on the Page?
The element I'll talk about this week is passive phrasing. When I do my first draft I just write. Well, I do have enough of an internal editor going on that I make changes as I write, but for the most part I put down the first thing that comes to mind as I'm tapping on the keyboard. That means the second time I read the passage I'm looking for things to fix. And usually but not always (according to one critique partner) I take out the passive phrasing that is inevitably there.
Passive phrasing tends to obscure the POV character and it also can be telling not to mention slows the pacing.
He was going to the store. The car was slow to start. She was angry he hadn't left yet. The whole argument was getting out of hand.
He had to get away, but he car refused to start. Jane stood at the door tapping her foot as if it was his fault the car wouldn't start. If he'd just kept his mouth shut this whole argument would have never happened.
Confession: The bottom correct writing was much easier to write for me than the top passive sentences. For one, the bottom I felt a part of the character as I wrote it which should make the reader feel a part of the character, while trying to put together passive sentences to tell a story was HARD! But for beginning writers the passive is easier. They tell the story rather than show. You don't want to tell the story you want to be in the story as you write it and write whet the characters are feeling and seeing. When you do that, it will take out most of the passive phrasing.
Watch for telltale words of passive phrasing like: Sentences that start with forms of there was, there is, and there are (or he/she was, he/she is, etc.) Began to can also be passive as well as was and an ing word
Use active verbs and use different ones. He walked(strode, jogged, paced) Find the perfect action word for each sentence. Make the story you're writing grab the reader and draw them in.
Also when you use passive phrasing the point of view person can become blurry. As with the two sentences above:
He was going to the store. She was angry he hadn't left yet.
The reader can't discern whose POV this story is in. If you were writing in omniscient POV it would work but it wold be boring.
It's Read an Ebook Week and you can get my book Gambling on an Angel at 50% off at Smashwords this week.