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Posts Tagged ‘story’


If you’ve ever been bitten by a story idea, an idea that seems compelling and interesting but could never be grand enough for a novel, try condensing it into a bite-sized flash. Take that story idea, build it as you would, then burn and carve away anything unnecessary. The basic structure should remain. Choose words and sentences that say much more than what’s written. Every word must be essential. The fewer the words, the greater the impact.

The purpose of flash fiction is to deliver the basic elements of a story—main character, conflict and resolution—all with an economy of words and a punch at the end. This final punctuation can be a twist, a chord of irony, a humorous note. The story can appear to be one thing only to be illuminated in the finale as quite another.

This blink-of-an-eye exercise forces you to create a snap shot in time and build suspense and the element of surprise with harnessed language. If you can wield tension powerfully in a flash fic piece with 500 words or less, just think what you could do in long fiction.

Try it out, be creative, have fun and aim for a knockout. The bloodshed and thrashing of your work, though brutal, will produce a beautiful piece of art.

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163169174_35eb6662d9_mOne of the best ways to engage your readers is to make your POV characters identifiable and intriguing. And you do that by making motivations and desires clear, including various types of sensory impressions and giving your characters multiple facets like quirky interests or occupations, different proclivities or issues that can affect how he or she reacts like phobias, skeletons in the closet, job tension or fatigue from insomnia. Okay. Check. You’ve done that. Good. After all this great character building, does your work contain some unwanted distance? Are critters saying your work is pretty good but not engaging? Does your prose feel a bit clumsy? Filtering may be the cause.

Filtering is good for coffee, pools and cigarettes, but not novels. Yet it’s something writers do too frequently because they don’t know they shouldn’t.  But it’s something you should watch for and avoid in your work.

When you use combos like she saw, she felt, she heard etc., instead of just naming the stimulus, it zaps a reader’s connection with the scene character. Saying what’s observed or detected with a filter creates distance and makes readers feel like they’ve been ushered outside the POV just a little bit instead of right there with it. Plus, it mucks up work with superfluous words.

Whether you’re using First, Subjective Third or Omniscience, filtering should be kept at a minimum. Here are some examples that show the difference:

She smelled burgers and bacon from Yesterday’s, which incited hunger pangs. (filtered)
The aroma of burgers and bacon from Yesterday’s incited hunger pangs. (direct)

She noticed the dogwood blossoms that settled on his black Corvette sail off and flutter to the pavement. (filtered)
Dogwood blossoms that settled on his black Corvette sailed off and fluttered to the pavement.
(direct)

When she heard a window pane shatter and clink on the wood floor like crystal rainfall, she scampered to hide. (filtered)
When a window pane shattered and clinked on the wood floor like crystal rainfall, she scampered to hide. (direct)

To find the filtering in your work, look for noun-verb combinations like: she felt, she knew, she saw, she smelled, she heard, she tasted, etc. and could-forms like: she could feel, she could sense, etc. and rewrite them so they’re non-filtered.

In some instances, it’s effective to use a filter like this:

By the time she caught wind of his black cherry-leather cologne, her neck was in the stranglehold of a muscular arm.

She heard somewhere that filters can kill an otherwise good novel.

You can also use a filter to help set up POV.  In Omniscience, filters tend to be used more often, but once POV is established, they can be omitted. If your chosen narrator remains at a distance from all POV characters, not quite as far-removed as Objective/Dramatic nor as close as Subjective, then filtering can be used to maintain this distance throughout.

Filtering is a beginner’s mistake so it comes off as amateurish and that’s not the kind of impression you want to make. Rock on. Write on. Be direct.

~CV

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Yes, you heard right.  Go ahead. Hate it.

Sometimes your work really does suck.

The first book I wrote is wonderful in places, but it’s flawed in too many ways to be fixed without a major rewrite.

My MC’s 19, risky age, being too old for YA, too young for adult. And it has structural failure–the main conflict, dilemma, goal, desire, is resolved before the climax, and it should hold taut until at least that point. It also relies too much on coincidence and may break true FBI procedure. I love quality enough to know this book just isn’t publishable.

Practicing, getting your work critiqued and reading about craft & for pleasure will help you recognize the good, the bad and the ugly in your work.

When I wrote my second novel, Kings & Queens, I better understood structure. In that, readers and my MC are aware of a massacre plot in chapter 1, and the whole truth about the why, who and how is not revealed to readers or my MC until the epilogue.

Not everyone can do that, and I’m not saying you have to stretch it THAT far, but to have a hooky work—which is the best kind IMO—the big concern presented at the onset shouldn’t be resolved until as late as possible, and definitely not until the climax.

Sometimes your work IS good, but needs the perspective of others besides your mom to make it oh-so-fabulous.

Don’t be afraid of criticism. Yes, that’s your baby, and yes, you have a delicate soul, but most critters want to help you take you and your work to a higher level. Take what works for your story and ditch the rest.

Hate your work enough to be objective and at least consider that they may be right. After several people complained of things being confusing, I changed things to bring clarity.

And sometimes your work IS almost ready for shelves, but could still use another glance over.

Definitely do it. Go over it one more time, looking at everything: flow, meter, voice, grammatical errors, wordiness. I’ll probably keep toiling and tweaking until I’m signed.

With my edit this past spring spring though, in trying to get work count down, I stripped out nearly every adjective and got sentences down to bare bones, and the writing lost its sparkle and MY VOICE. Not good! So, I ended up replacing a lot of what I cut and just decided I’d reached my word count and that was that.

Well, I really need a much smaller word count. So this week, I decided to go at it again, but I set out with a different tactic. Here are the ways I was able to trim, no lie, 1300 words from my first SEVEN chapters. Yippee! And the cool thing is the scenes don’t seem any emptier. They’re not sparse or choppy. The flow is nice. I’m very happy. It’s just kind of embarrassing that I had that much to trim and didn’t see it. You can keep these tips in mind if your work is in need of a major hack-and-slash.

Ø For the most part, keep modifiers to one per noun. Slay extra extras. Removing ALL strips out color, so don’t do that. Rather, go for vivid, concise pictures. Is it really important to say his polo shirt’s blue? If he gets mistaken for someone else wearing a similar shirt, then his shirt color factors into plot. Keep it. Just consider everything, whether it’s needed or not.

Ø Choose punchy verbs over an adverb-verb combo.

Ø Omit unnecessary dialogue tags, action or anything that disrupts flow during a conversation.

Ø Examine dialogue and say the same thing in fewer words. I hacked off so much when I broke speech down to the guts.

Ø Take a machete to exposition. Since it’s the Narrator spilling info, it pulls readers from the scene and somewhat breaks POV.  Examine those scene-killers, hack away, keeping only the most vital bits.

Originally in ch. 1, I stopped to describe this hangout called Spanky’s. The info’ really wasn’t needed. I offed 75 words, keeping the one line that held some voice–a mini-golf/ice cream shop gone wild.

And chapter 4 had four paragraphs describing my character, Derek’s lousy upbringing, thought process, fears, etc. I cut 200 words and it’s now one spiffy graph. What I did keep relates to his thoughts.

Ø Do some telling. I know we’re told to show not tell, but in many cases, showing adds words. Showing is important for engagement, but if you’re a writer with 90-95 show percentage, don’t be afraid to take it down to 70%, or 80 if you’re squeamish about it.

Ø Kill your darlings. Sometimes we love the specific way we word sentences, but look at each construction with fresh eyes and think, can I convey this tighter? Be ruthless. Rewrite and reorganize sentences rather than just trimming down what you’ve got so you can maintain voice.

Ø Look for extraneous articles, prepositions, that’s, evens and other extras that can be cut off and not missed.

Ø Perform magic with better word choices. [e.g. He went up the stairs, two at a time…He whooshed up the stair…He double-stepped the stairs.]

Ø Get in some dirty talking and thoughts. Dialogue doesn’t need to be perfect English and thoughts can be broken because people don’t always think in complete sentences. [e.g. “Can’t wait for football season to start!”…or “Goin’ home?”…”Excited about your new job?”…Boss sucks!]

And people blend many, many words–gotta, wanna, kinda, sorta, hafta, should’ve, that’d (contraction for that would…That’d be okay.). Stripping out formality, when it’s fitting for the speaker, not only trims words, it helps your characters seem more real and you less stuffy.

Ø Expand your vocabulary. Sometimes a perfect, juicy word can replace two or three. [e.g. come up with v. devise.]

Ø And don’t forget to remove as many filters as you can like he saw, she could sense. Just name the stimulus or spill what the character is thinking or experiencing. [e.g. She wondered if he could read her mind. v. Could he read her mind?] If you’re firmly locked into one POV, such trims won’t be jarring at all.

Strangely, with all this excess baggage shed out of my manuscript, I feel refreshed and exhilarated, knowing my work is cleaner and overall better.

Don’t be afraid to have a love-hate relationship with your work. You’ll be a much better writer for it.

All the best!

~ CV

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The Thanksgiving Season is upon us and even if you don’t celebrate the Great Turkey Day in a traditional sense, you’ll have a bit more time off than normal.

If you’re like me, you’ve already packed the migraine medicine, the big thick book you won’t read, and six cans of green beans in the car, the essentials for a trip home. I’m a traveling Thanksgiving guest. This means instead of sleeping late, scratching myself in the privacy of my own home, and watching sappy movies on television, I go to the homes of others.

Actually, the three dogs and I make a pilgrimage to my mother’s house, also known as the fourth ring of hell, several times a year. One of my dogs is a half-bald Pomeranian who at the age of sixteen has decided that walking all the way to my mother’s rug is too much trouble and she’ll just pee where she’s lying. You ever had a dog with a wooly coat? That pee smell does not come out. So now I put pull-ups on her with a little hole cut out for her tail stick through.

Because her back is nearly bald, I top this off with a red t-shirt that says “Suck My Milkbone” which adds some holiday cheer. No one seems to appreciate my effort at cheer and sanitation. All I get is eye-rolls and a few oh-my-God’s.

The other two dogs are fairly normal, well, mostly normal. My male dog has glaucoma and is going blind but he also lives in a state of excited bliss at the thought of meeting new people. The forty-eight people stuffed into my mother’s house are a doggie dream come true for him. Between sneezing, licking, and shedding, he manages to touch every one of them in some special way whether they want to or not.

My other dog is a fat, oversized Papillion who is completely deaf. Even in her peaceful silence, she finds the chaos of family gatherings to be overwhelming. You’ll normally find her curled up, alone, on one of the guest beds with a bag of doggie treats she’s stolen. Even if she is gone, you’ll know it’s her because all of the treats are lined up across the bed like railroad tracks. She’s nothing if not neat.

Did I mention she has food allergies? Well if she does eat the wrong treats, she’ll lick herself bald for the next three days because of all the goodies she steals.

And now you’re wondering why I’m telling you all of this? You’re a writer; you could care less about my balding, diaper wearing dog. What I’m trying to get through to you is that this Thanksgiving is an opportunity to look at your family, not as the loving and annoying cretins that they are but rather as raw material for your work.

This holiday, take one person, one event, and write about it. You can exaggerate it for humor, tell it with the bald truth, or mix the two up.

To me, my dogs are just part of my life. I don’t think about how odd they seem to other people. I don’t think it’s odd that I have a case of doggie meds that I pack with me everywhere. It also never occurs to me that other people don’t pack green beans in the car for Thanksgiving. I’ve lived through too many green bean casserole emergencies, I’m prepared. This is just normal to me. But to other people, my ordinary is interesting, it’s funny, it’s sad.

This Thanksgiving, write about one event, one thing, one person as if it were new to you. Write about it as a stranger might see it. Look at your life with brand new glasses and see yourself from a new perspective. See yourself and your family as they big turkeys they are. After all, everyone is a turkey some of the time.

And if the writing sucks, tell people the turkey did it. It’s practically the truth.

Gobble, gobble.

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You know that proverbial feather that flattens you without warning? Well, you could have knocked me down with it the day I realized I’d written four novels. Add to these, two stubborn characters who – like moving targets – refuse to interface with me long enough to give me a handle on their personalities and complete stories.

I never lose the drive to showcase what I do with words. I’ve never written for self-satisfaction – to stash my work away, hidden from criticism and praise. I write to be read. I write because at this point, I have a boatload of ideas and characters who have stories they want to share. Every so often, they move into my headspace and start talking: You know you want to write my story, so here’s what’s happening with me…

One of the best decisions I made was to enroll in a writing workshop early in 2008. My tutor was frank to the point of rudeness, but countered his facetious remarks with good advice and excellent feedback. As a writer, he understood the fragility of the egos involved. Early on in our sessions, he asked me why I’d stopped writing. I didn’t give him a real answer, but knew I’d made the right choice to attend his workshop when he remarked that I should have been writing years ago.

Under his tutelage, I learned to simplify my writing. Forget what you know about writing reports and taking minutes, this is fiction! It’s far different! he said. Easier said than done, but I’m learning to choose the five dollar word over the ten dollar one, which is something else he hammered in my head. Regrettably, I didn’t get to tell him before he died that I’ll be published.

Late in 2004, I joined a blogging network and penned a handful of short stories. Members encouraged me with comments that some of the stories could be extended into novels. I thought about it for a bit, but didn’t follow up on those suggestions. By then, I’d grown bored with blogging and started searching for genuine writing networks.

Enter The Next Big Writer. The site was just launched (November 2005) and my greatest desire then was to improve my storytelling skills. By that time, I’d started thinking about a character for a Young Adult novel who wouldn’t stop talking to me. Christine was loosely based on someone I’d met. After combing through countless articles on novel writing, and hemming and hawing about whether I could actually write a whole novel, I penned the first chapter of Christine’s story and posted it on the site.

In retrospect, it was terrible. My biggest problem was starting in one point of view and staying there. The emotion was evident, but the mechanics of good writing were all missing. Criticism was sometimes harsh, but always helpful, and with the assistance and guidance of better writers, plus that arsenal of articles on writing, I reshaped the novel. To date, the members of TNBW have had the biggest impact on my growth as a writer. This is where I threw off my shyness and dared tell myself I was a writer.

I knew storytelling would stay with me once I started writing Christine’s Odyssey. I was thrilled and flattered to find other people invested in the mixed fortunes of a twelve-year-old girl, birthed from my imagination. They cried when she did and cheered when she triumphed. I started a second novel before I completed the first and somewhere in the crafting of that story, I morphed into a writer. This not-so-new hobby wasn’t something I’d be putting aside any time soon, due to boredom.

But why had I denied myself the pleasure of writing stories for twenty years? The need to earn a living pushed the creative urge aside and the irony is, that same need rekindled my interest. Simply put, I needed money. But before I presumed to write anything, I did a week’s worth of research on the internet which nearly sent me blind. After that, I cranked out my first article under a pseudonym. To date, I’ve been paid for every other article except that first one. D’you think I had a premonition when I called that article If I Knew Then…?

Many of us who write, shy away from calling ourselves writers. We think it’s presumptuous to assume that title, especially if we haven’t been published and/or paid. I was one of those and even after I was paid several times over, I still wondered whether I’d made the grade. Am I a writer now? I’d ask myself. But no light bulb clicked on, nor did I get any sudden revelation that my status had officially changed.

With time, my views have shifted. A writer is defined as someone who writes for money or a person who can write and has written something. The Pocket Oxford Dictionary describes it as a person who writes books or articles as an occupation. I believe the latter definition is most accurate. Writing is now an activity that occupies much of my time. It is part of who I’ve become and it’s part of who I’ll be in the future. Moreover, I will continue to write whether I make money or not. That, to me, is the essence of writing. Something I do for enjoyment. Call it a compulsion that stemmed from another habit.

Writing is a natural progression from reading. Numerous writers have revealed that they dared to write after reading a book and thinking that they could do as good a job, or better. In grade eight (second form to Jamaicans), I wrote romance novels like the ones I liked to read, but my career as a novelist didn’t last long.

The teenage years intervened, and my focus changed to studying, but I never stopped reading. I can thank my love of books to my mother who provided them early and to a cousin who was an avid reader. She turned me on to books – pardon the pun, but you’ll see what I mean in a moment. Unfortunately, the material I read then was not stuff she should have left around for a pre-teen to digest. At the slightest opportunity, I’d steal into our room to read about titillating and impossible acrobatic activity between men and women and sometimes people of the same sex.

Those stories were a long way from the girls’ adventure novels and books of limericks I got from the school library. The tame Mills and Boon romance novels, which I devoured alongside these, paled in comparison to the activities of the nymphomaniacs in the smutty stories.

The nuns at the Catholic schools I attended encouraged us to read and thanks to their vigilance, I developed an eclectic taste. But they would have been horrified to know I’d graduated from reading the Bible – which my mother insisted I read at home (setting the stage for school) – to forbidden material.

Now, if you’ve got this far, picture a band of little kids huddled over a collection of book covers. Visualize attractive-but-sappy-looking females with flowing hair and ecstatic expressions. The same ones from historical romances, decked out in voluminous gowns and draped over the arms of muscle-bound men. The titles always came embossed with gold lettering.

That’s my first memory of reading. Some long-forgotten man, who lived in our tenement in Kingston , used to bring home the discarded covers. I’m not sure why. To entertain us kids, maybe? My aunt told me he worked for a book manufacturer and distributor, which is how he came by those goodies, which provided hours of entertainment for us children. We’d read the titles, shuffle them, trade them, and fight over them until they were dog-eared.

That’s where my fascination with books started, with those discarded book covers, and the love affair hasn’t ended. Today, I’m in the process of deciding on the cover I like for my book, which will be released next April. I’m also getting ready to edit a follow-up novel for publication.

I think about reading and writing as a process through which I’ve come full circle. I’m still an avid reader, but now I’m also a prolific writer. I’m living my dream. Seven novels, two partials, and an assortment of stories and articles later, I have endless tales to tell and the passion to nurture each new story to fruition.

More than anything else, this is how I know I’m a writer.


How do you know that writing is what you were meant to do?

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I’ve always longed to be the featured champion on a box of Wheaties. Yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh, but when I was a small kid, I possessed an incredible degree of power and strength. I beat every kid in my class in callisthenic, strength and endurance tests in nearly every event, especially those involving running and jumping. And learning dance only provided me with greater agility and breakaway speed—handy when you’re playing Wide Receiver BTW. [Yes, of course! Tomboy here.] In 1984, I even beat Gold Medalist, Evelyn Ashford’s time by a hair in a 100-meter dash with 10.63 versus her Gold Medal/World Record time of 10.76.

But all that greatness and potential is lost. No Wheaties box for me. Other than an occasional moment of playtime, I’m not really as sporty as I once was. I certainly can’t Jazzercize my way into the champion-seeking hearts at General Mills. And hills STILL own me in my running, sometimes wiping me out more than another two more miles would. Even if I breeze up those monsters with ease, running won’t get me there. I’m slower than a slug now, not even close to the blazing flash of lightning I once was. I don’t know what happened.

No…I do know.

I never really strove to develop and hone my skills, to increase my strength, to improve. Because it all came naturally, I didn’t feel the need to practice or pressure to get better. I beat everyone who ever dared to race me, boy or girl. I WAS a winner…a champion, owning a slightly better time than a World Record holder and Olympic Gold Medalist “Eeee-ven”…sans Snagglepuss from Laff-A-Lympics. “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”

To become a champion, and remain one—in whatever your passion may be—, you need to bring your A-Game every time, carrying the certainty that you can attain your dream and also have it snatched away at any moment by someone else. If you don’t act as though you have heat on your heels, it can all be lost. Writers should approach their passion for words with the same intensity athletes do their games, races, matches, meets and competitions. So, what can you do to be Wheaties-worthy?

LEARN THE RULES: As rules exist in sports, there are many in writing beyond grammar and we hear them plenty: show don’t tell, no head-hopping, no passive voice, no abundance of adverbs or adjectives, no be-verbs, no huge blocks of internalization, no breaking the fourth wall, no stopping action for long blocks of description…

Once you understand what the rules are and why they’re important, you can learn to break them according to your story’s needs.  If you know what you are doing and why, then you can demonstrate this deliberateness.

Like with passive voice, let’s say you’re in First Person and your character IS passive or sees everything as a martyr or victim or is unreliable, then a sense of detachment and distance might be appropriate.  Or if you understand that hanging three adjectives on every noun creates drag over pretty language, you can then choose to use this technique when you do want to slow things down, maybe increase suspense, like describing a room where everything looks creepy to the observer.

Familiarize yourself with the rules, particularly those regarding narratives and structure. If you don’t have a firm grasp of narratives, how will you be able to spot head-hopping when it creeps into your story or know if your work would present better in Omniscience? You need to know the difference.

No matter what your story calls for, you can then demonstrate you’re a true player in the game and not just flying by the seat of your pants, doing whatever you want.

PRACTICE, TRAIN & STRETCH: To become excellent, you need to keep working. Push yourself in uncomfortable directions and attempt things you never thought you would do. I tried a celebrity vampire story when I didn’t think I could do it, and the story came out great. It didn’t win the contest I entered, but I’m so glad I got it done. Choose a difficult task or goal for your character or a crazy outcome and wrestle your way there. Practice and try something new and different like a villanelle or flash fiction. The more you stretch, the better you will become.

GET IN THE GAME: Once you have the playbook in hand, get in the game, what are you waiting for!? You can comb over it again and again, but you’re never gonna know your story’s worth or what you’re capable of if you don’t put yourself out there. Find some critters, adopt a thicker skin and let your baby be ripped to shreds. I know exposure is scary and that it’s painful because writing is so soul-baring, but you need to get in the game and risk some injury if you want to become a champion.

When you’re aware of your weaknesses, you can adapt your methods, rid your bad habits and make your work indubitably stronger. Even becoming aware of a little thing like repeat words—“huffed” for me—and fixing that will improve a work. You likely wouldn’t notice such a thing on your own. You need feedback, desperately, so get it. Once your work is polished and shiny, you’re ready to seek expert opinion and publication. Go! Get in the game.

PLAY WITH SPIRIT: In order to enjoy writing and make your pieces as engaging as possible, you need to find your own style and voice. People can help you along, give you guidance, offer suggestions, but only you can tell the story brewing inside you and innately know the best way to tell it. You may need to work and wrestle and dig deep to find your voice, but once you do, your words will string together much more smoothly, your characters will come to life much more easily and your plot turns will surprise you. If you’re just writing to get words down or meet a contractual obligation, it will show. Don’t lose your soul’s fire. It’s normal to have down days, to get disheartened and discouraged, but stay in the game, maintain your energy and excitement, stay focused and be true to yourself.

HAVE A VISION OF SUCCESS: Where do you want to be as a writer? What do you hope to achieve? Visualize that. Don’t just picture it in your mind; learn what you need to do in order to make that happen, set goals and work at getting there. There are tons of books and online resources, including agents’ blogs, that give you the tools you need to write well and get attention. Seeing yourself as the champion of your dream will help you maintain a positive attitude even when all hope seems lost. Your vision of success may need to change, and that’s fine; adapt as you go along.

DON’T QUIT: If your work ends up being not as wonderful or as well-received as you assumed, that’s okay. Start over, change things up or write something else. The first novel I wrote has great elements, especially the romance between the adorable characters, but it depends too much on coincidence, and taking out one thing would collapse the whole rickety thing. It’s in a purple folder somewhere and that’s likely the only binding it will ever be in. If you write something that isn’t suitable for mass consumption, that’s okay. Try again. Very few people are fabulous on their first go. It can take several efforts before you have a winner. Stay tenacious. Even if you don’t get validation in the publishing world or never sell one self-published book beyond your family members and friends, don’t stifle your creative breath, don’t quiet those characters crying out for birth, don’t put down the pen. Keep doing your best for YOU.

Will I ever be on Wheaties everywhere? Doubt it. Not unless General Mills considers plume athleticism worthy of their boxes. Maybe then I’ll land up there for my most awesome excellence. It takes just as much, if not more, determination, wits and skill to be a master of words—words that can stir laughter, draw tears, sooth a soul, infuse hope, empower, change a life—as it does to catch a 4th-and-goal touchdown pass from the 2 to win the Super Bowl.

Don’t just write; become a champion, great enough to be on Wheaties.

~ CV

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If you’re like me, you have a tendency to drift into passive voice without even really meaning to.

The lovely ‘to be’ verbs show up unexpectedly like your Cousin Dennis after you’ve won the lottery. Unexpected and unwanted. Only they won’t steal your lawnmower. Instead, they steal excitement from your writing.

What do I mean by ‘to be’?

Example: I was thinking about going to the party. It would have been a great time, I know it. I was going to wear my green party dress.

This whole statement is in passive voice. Verbs such as was, is, would have can remove the action from your story. But don’t get out your red pen yet.

Not all passive voice is bad. So you shouldn’t remove it willy-nilly.
In things like dialogue, passive voice usually is the way to go. People normally speak in passive voice, not active. However, if you’re not doing dialogue, you need to watch out for the tricky ‘to be’s’.

Corrected Example: I thought about going to the party and wearing my green party dress.

See how the corrected version is more immediate? Now if only there really was a party. But then again, the only party dress I have is a 1980’s puffy cocktail dress from some forgotten high school prom.
I’d be sparkin’ hot in that.

What was that, a passive verb?

Ack! They’re everywhere.

How can you see how much passive voice you’re using?

You could reply on a fellow writer to review your novel for you. But for some reason, not every writer wants to read 80,000 words of a rough draft. I can’t understand why. And not every writer is great at spotting passive voice. Writers like myself.

So instead, you should try a fun website like Aztekera.

You can paste sections of your novel into Aztekera, click on the check button and get both a percentage of ‘to be’ verbs and a listing of the individual lines.

Now, Aztekera won’t tell you which passive sentences you should keep, if any. It’s not your mother. It won’t make you chicken soup when you’re sick either.

But it will give a quick way to see if you’re writing actively or passively.
Don’t be a Passive Patsy!

Check out Aztekera

~ Tirzah

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