Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Passive Vs. Active

This past year has really brought a lot of new changes to my writing style. I've learned a lot from many of the new author friends I've made in my critique group.

One of the biggest changes I've made, thanks in part to editors Browne and King, authors of "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers", is that I've changed from writing in passive to active voice.

There are many benefits from writing in this style. I use most of them in my arguments to other writers when I'm critiquing their work.
  • Passive voice separates the reader from the character, while active voice pulls you right into the action.
  • Passive voice 'tells' the reader what 'was', instead of actively 'showing' them what 'is'.
  • Active voice allows you to get right into the character's head, see their thoughts and feel their emotions.
  • Active voice makes the difference between reading a story and taking an adventure.

Here are some examples of passive vs. active paragraphs from the novel I'm currently working on, Orientation - the first book of my Necromancer Series:

Original Passive/Telling Version:

Staring at Azrael for a few moments, with a look of befuddlement on her face, Sibyl-Claire tried to contemplate the meaning behind his statement. Was he implying that games were for the immature, or was he truly sad that he had never experienced them? Sibyl-Claire turned her attention toward Magus and asked, “Well, then what about you? Are you up for a little competition?”

New Active/Showing Version:

Staring at Azrael, Sibyl-Claire narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. Is he implying that games are only for the immature, or sad he's never experienced them? She shrugged and turned toward Magus and asked, "Well, what about you? Are you up for a little competition?"

The first 'passive' version 'tells' you what Sibyl-Claire did and thought, keeping the reader on the outside of the story, looking in. While the second 'active' version, 'showed' you what she did and allowed the reader direct access to her thoughts, pulling them into the story.

All those points are true and I've seen how they work. Writing in active voice is hard, but it's something that I can spot a mile away now, which brings me to the next point I want to make.

After telling and showing you the benefits of writing in this style, which I agree with, I have to admit that I still love the passive/telling story. I've been reading Rowling's series again and though it's written mostly in passive/telling voice, I still find it very good, very entertaining and very adventurous.

So, while I'm changing and writing in a new style, one that I believe will only help to pull the readers into my stories and take them on some of the greatest adventures of their lives, there's also nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned story telling.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

No comments:

Post a Comment