The best way to pick out passive tense vs active tense is to look at the verb form. If you see any form of the verb 'to be' (am, are, is, was, were, etc) followed by another verb, it's usually passive tense.
The carts were pulled down the road.
The tv could be seen through the window.
Rushton was dragged away.
I was grabbed from behind.
The active tense of these sentences would be:
The horses pulled the carts down the road.
She could see the t.v. through the window.
A crazy fangirl dragged Rushton away.
Someone grabbed me from behind.
Note that the sentences in the second group pull you into the action a little more. In the first, the objects and people described are being passive. Things are being done (also a passive verb combo, by the way) to them. In the second, the subject of the sentence is active; they are doing something.
Does that help? I love the passive/active voice. It's so much fun to play with.
This is not really grammatical advice but I thought it could help some people with their development of their characters in their stories since it is helping me. THis is just a short exercise we did in english since we are writing short stories at the moment.
All we did was think of a male character for a moment. And note his...
Physical appearance: Is he muscular, tall, short, skinny, fat, round, what colour eyes does he have? What colour of hair and hair length, type, style etc. Does he have a tanned body. huge feet, small feet etc.... (I think you get the idea)
Physicality: Exercise a lot?, play sport????
Personality: is he outgoing, or quiet, shy, reserved??? Is he a bloke's-bloke or a girl's bloke, is he over-confident? How does he act around his friends, family??? Is it different or is is the same??? Is he clumsy or neat? Is he comfortable around people?? a party person? an independant person??? etc...
Interests, hobbies: What interests does he have??? Sport, art, music, drama etc...
What's something in his past that has shaped his future?: (Can be negative or positive experience). Parents separated etc...
Chief Motivation: making a difference to the world?, musician, artistic, scientist, good around friends,
Dress: Causal clothes, comfortable in clothes??? Does he wear shoes??? etc...
Age: is he young or old...
After we took notes we read them out and then we did the same exercise for a female character. I found it was a really useful technique for the planning of a short story as you were writing whatever came to your mind. This is my male character that I created... :)
Muscular, tall, brown eyes, brown curly hair, tanned, huge feet, confident around people, comfortable and well fitting clothes, outgoing and reserved sometimes, loud and over-confident person, bloke's-bloke, clmusy, loves surfing and soccer, parent's separated but made him happy to end the suffering between them, motivated to make a difference and 35 years old.
dont know if this has been put on before, but this is something from the recent MWW meet in melbourne and the Joss Weedon speech we went and saw
Joss said, when your writing a story, and you have scenes already decided in your head, that you should write these down first and then fill in the rest of your story. This gives you a chance to really decide how you want your story to go up until this scene.
I had a lecture the other day which said the same thing. She also said that most novelists will already have their major scene decided before they have even decided their whole character plots. They usually write down these scenes, even in their roughest forms, and then decide how they want to characters to look, and how the story goes up until this point. It also helps when you are writing an introduction, as you can now decide just how much you want to give away before the 'big' scene, and whether you want to do a prologue.
I used this for my recent bit of writing I did, and found it really helped. I already knew what I wanted to write about, and I had the major scene all flying around my head, so I wrote that out first, then worked backwards from there. I changed things once I had finished the whole thing, I went back and edited it, but it also helped me with my introductions, which I usually have heaps of trouble with.
Anyway now that i have finished my long winded advice, hope this helps people :)
Can I just add another thing I found which helped me with my short story. It might seem obvious and might seem like you waste time but plan your plot and write pages about your main character before you begin. Also jot down scensory language and descriptions you can use to describe your setting. It really helps. THe more you have the better equiped you'll be. :)
Also, about the characters, remember even though stories are a fictional genre of writing no character should be perfect. THey should have their unperfect traits or genres that make them human. Make sure you incorporate this into your story so the readers don't get the impression that your character is picture perfect and therefore, boring.
Another point to add is when describing your characters instead of telling the reader he or she is confident, show the reader. :) Tell the reader about his or her behaviours that make her or him confident, angry etc... This gives the reader a visual image. :)
Sorry about the rambling guys. :(
I've been a bit absent lately, so I didn't catch Bam's post until I read The Moonwatcher. It is a fantastic piece of advice, really. Sometimes, it's too easy to worry about where you're going to start your story or if it's in the right place and often, it's too far away from that scene you really want to write or the exchange of dialogue that inspired the whole story in the first place.
You don't have to start at the beginning! Start with your strongest scenes; start with the exchanges you most want to write and really cement your love of the story.
Some people can write an entire story this way - just going from scene to scene and putting them together later. I can't do that, personally - I tend to need to keep going - but it's always a good idea to take a break from a linear story. If you've stalled in your story but you really want to get to a particular scene, then skip ahead and write it. Odds are that, by writing it, you'll be inspired to go back to where you were and continue with fresh enthusiasm.
And VC, that character advice is very apt, too. It's very easy to make the mitsake of describing everything about your character in the narrative, rather than revealing bits and pieces. But if you have written down a description or profile of your character, it's much easier to use it as a reference from time to time and gradually give us an image as the story progresses.
Yep. Bam You're advice is really good. ALthough, I'm one of those people who just write and write and write and then choose the best out of what I've written to be my story. Unfortunately, the rest of my scribble goes to the trash can.
Thanks, Ama. I've read that somewhere myself. It'll be fun to see how many of those sins exist in my book once I've edited :).
I use all of those sins! ALL OF THEM! And I don't care that I do :P
(Can't say I do, either :D)
An excellent quote Shonk. My primary school self could have used something like this to better understand writing. It seems hard to miss the point it is making :)
It's so true, too. Ernest Hemmingway deliberately used short, repetitive sentences at the beginning of A Farewell to Arms and it was very effective in describing the monotony of the war. (Just don't read that book beyond the first couple pages unless you want to hate life.)
Just wanted to share this quote I stumbled upon today. It resonated with me quite strongly, perhaps it will be familiar to others too :)
“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
—Elmore Leonard (curtesy of writersdigest.com 72 of the best quotes about writing)
Sometimes it feels like, as a writer, I walk a fine line between using and abusing the English language.