The QuestionsUncategorised

Was is a Trap

“Why do writers avoid passive voice?

“I was also told in a critique I overused the verb “was.” I’m curious on why it weakens writing to be able to use it like a tool.”

As a content editor, while editing manuscripts, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve the narrative of a story. One such way is to have the writer describe, instead of tell. For an example, which of the following is more engaging to a reader:

I look about the room. The bed was not made, and the dead body was sprawled across it. A pool of blood was congealing on the floor and a smoking gun was in the model’s hand. I was shocked. There are few things that shock me, one of them – why would such a beautiful girl obviously kill herself.

-or-

I look about the room. The bed, sheets rumpled haphazardly, draped over the dead body sprawled across it. A pool of blood congealed on the floor and a smoking gun still clenched in a delicately manicured hand. Tension knots my muscles, driving my eyelids wide as I stare. Why would such a beautiful girl kill herself?

In the second paragraph you’ll notice the absence of the word “was”. The reasoning behind it is to paint a picture in the reader’s mind so they see the room in their head. Another is to remove present tense modification.

A writer must pull their audience into their work, making it active and engaging. Writing passive sentences, though good for business, is not entertaining in fiction. To grab your reader and make them part of the story is an art, and though many people know how to write, not many people know how to write engagingly. This is where you will find the difference between writer and an author.

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