Having sent Medusa’s Garden back out into the world of readers, I was surprised to have some feedback already.  And while they enjoyed the story, there are still some faults.

Apparently, I am a passive writer.  While I have read lots about passive writing, I always thought it wasn’t me, until I had it pointed out.  And boy, I am so passive it is submissive!  As an exercise, I went through and “found” several words in my manuscript.  Here are the statistics:

Total number of words:  47,690

Was – 818 times

had – 718 times (87 of those were in “had been”

that – 659 times

just – 101 times

has – 72 times (14 in “has been”)

This is quite shocking really.  So how do these lend to a passive voice?

“Ianthe was instructing”  would have more impact as “Ianthe instructed”.

“Medusa told herself that she…” instead would read better as “Medusa told herself she…”

“She just wanted to…” sounds better as “she wanted to…”

“She hoped that she…” would read better as “she hoped she”

Basically passive words take the impact or the punch out of the sentence by being too wordy.  If you take those awful words out the sentence is shorter, easier to read and provides more impact to the story around it.

While on the subject of passiveness, I was reading more of “If Only I had Time” on my Kindle, and there was a really good article by Scott Nicholson about Seven bad habits of Highly Inefficient writers.  This was a good eye opener too, because I found another passive voice that I use a lot… she felt!  Whoops!

Scott recommends that you let the actions and sensations speak for themselves – and this is one I really do struggle with.  I need to perhaps spend more time looking at how I do these scenes, because there is a particular area in the book where Medusa is by herself, and there isn’t any dialogue (unless I had her talking to herself…), so she isn’t able to convey her frustrations without thinking about them… but can she?  She is able to have her actions show frustration, but throwing pieces of wood around, having tantrums.  Yes, I can make this scene more expressive without “she felt” precursoring all her actions.

So, it is back to the drawing board for me, but at least this is all positive stuff, and things that can be fixed – hopefully no one finds a huge plot hole!

Passive, but not aggressive
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4 thoughts on “Passive, but not aggressive

  • April 1, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    what an awesome learning curve! Your writing will benefit from it, I am sure 🙂 I struggle with the passive thing at times too – very easy to do.

    • April 1, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      I think unless we are made more aware of it, it does tend to go under the radar – I know I often read about it, but I didn’t believe that I was guilty of it – until I saw it in my own work! As you said, it is a learning curve, and one I am happy to take! 😀

  • April 7, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Arghhh! The dreaded passive voice. We all do it. But hey – now you’re aware, its an easy fix – and ‘Medusa’ is an AWESOME story so full steam ahead now : )

    (Am about to send through the article I was telling you about earlier today – hope it helps)

    • April 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

      Yes LaVerne, and thanks for the pointers yesterday!

      Medusa’s devotion to Athena was absolute. The goddess knew this which irked Teresa.

      What do you think? 🙂


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