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Passive voice

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Lisselle, May 15, 2017.

  1. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    If Herbert had been the sort of writer who was triggered whenever he caught an instance of passive voice in his first draft, how would he have revised it? Heh. What would have been the result, to/for the story?

    This is a more general question, probably relates to agency and focus, tone, pacing, whatever.

    A young Atreides House Guardsman let the old woman in....

    The old woman entered through.....

    (Or, as is more common today, with such incredible focus on showing interior thoughts and feelings ....)

    The old woman waited impatiently for the young Atreides guard to open the door, then brushed past him before he could utter his "Reverend Mother."

    (Yes, I used an -ly, heh.)

    Well, it's an interesting what-if, and for anyone wanting to weed their garden, multiple revisions are possible.

    This thought first occurred to me earlier when I gave the example, "The door was made of wood."

    One could write "The door was wooden," although that seems weak unless every other door is metal, heh, or unless one is trying to start a fire maybe.

    So working in wood as an adjective or noun might be better while giving something else agency. Or maybe not even mentioning the fact that the door is made of wood.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
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  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Of course it's an opinion, just as passive is bad is an opinion, LOL. But, the leap made to all action is a non sequitur.

    Give me a movie any time. You can pile on as much description as you like, but if it's motionless and 2D, I'm not hanging around long.

     
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  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    This brings one to different types of passive. Sticking to the bland description: The door was made of wood. Who cares about that passive? Assuming the line fits into an interesting bit and works being so blah, does anyone care? Not really. Switch the instance to: The door was slammed by gale winds. Now, you have an action that is passive and my editor brain will trigger if it's turned on. A passive state of being "made of wood" or perhaps a tower in ruins "the tower was destroyed" aren't going to bug me much. It's only when something that is naturally active is passive that red lights go off... Roy was blocked from firing his harpoon and the tower was destroyed by the dragon. That's the sort of passive of legend that makes a person wince, LOL.

    And passive in dialogue, I naturally don't use it too much, but I don't have issue with that either.

     
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  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Ah, I'd been thinking of an opportunity for improvement via the use of some new agency: Blood stains had seeped into the wood of the prison's door; engravings showing dragons and imps covered every inch of the oaken door.

    So even when giving description, a switch to active voice might improve the description, but this might require finding a new agent. A statue of Captain Picard had been erected in the center of the park; or, in the center of the park, birds had left their own memorials upon a statue of Captain Picard.*

    *Edit: Not that one couldn't simply supply the missing agent, i.e., The former city council had erected a statue of Captain Picard in the center of the park. Depends on context, what's important.. But sometimes removing passive voice, or revising to active voice, might not be as simple as supplying that missing agent.

     
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
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  5. Aurora

    Aurora Sage

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    Passive voice is necessary sometimes. Adverbs, too. Strange grammar in dialogue as well if you're revealing character. All of these tools make us better storytellers. Don't discount it because software says to, or because critique partners tell you to nix it out. If your editor says it then listen, since you're paying them money. Not everything is bad though. Just tell the story and focus on your character development.
     
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  6. Lisselle

    Lisselle Minstrel

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    Thank you. :)


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
     
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