Active and Passive Voice
All writers have to worry about how their writing impacts their readers. Whether you're writing an insurance statement, a business proposal, or a novel, you have to write with your intended audience in mind. By thinking about your reader and how you want him to react to your work, you create more effective text.
What is the book most writers and editors use as a guide to editing grammar and style?
The Chicago Manual of Style is the most commonly accepted guideline by publishers and writers. It was originally published in 1906 and has been updated every few years since.
Understanding the concepts behind active and passive voice will help you become a more effective writer. While this is good practice for all writers, it's crucial for fiction writers. You have to create reality with your words. Your characters, plot, and setting are counting on you to be able to describe them in a forceful, active manner. While using the best voice is important in dialogue, even narrative descriptions can be enhanced by the right language.
In active voice, the verb shows the action of the subject:
He ate his supper.
She walked to the store.
They drove the car off the cliff.
In these examples, the readers can easily figure out who it was that ate, walked, and drove. Active voice makes the action more direct and immediate. It can help you take your characters from place to place without slowing down the pace.
There are some cases where you have to use passive voice. Usually writers do this with a form of to be:
She was attacked.
It is taken care of.
It will be done.
Sometimes you want to avoid stating who it was that performed the action of the verb. In the first example, maybe you don't want the readers to know who it was that attacked her. But more often than not, withholding this information is not intentional. In this case, see if you can revise the passive voice sentence by figuring out what the subject is: “The killer attacked her in the dark.”
Read carefully through your work when you revise. There are many ways to change passive voice to active voice. Don't forget to look for these opportunities. You don't want your readers to feel disassociated from the story.