Author A. LaFaye is known for wandering -- both physically by traveling here and there and back again to visit schools, speak at conferences, and visit a zoo or two along the way AND mentally when she goes off topic on a wordy little tangent about who knows what. Read and find out.
Writing in active voice. We remember the lessons in
elementary school about John.
The tree was cut down by John—Passive Voice
John cut the tree down—Active Voice
Did anyone just have a flashback involving red ink?
Seriously though, let’s talk about “active voice” beyond the
confines of grammar.Bring it into the
realm of writing—fiction, poetry, picture books, a note to your kids.Whatever you’re writing, active voice can
bring your writing alive for your readers.
Like all aspects of writing, active voice doesn’t travel
alone, so we’ll also talk about a few of the traveling companions of active
voice as we go through some brief advice about this stylistic element of writing.
A Verb a Day Keeps ….
Passive voice away. Not really, but it is true that learning
and wielding new verbs is a great way to hone your active voice as well as
improve you Words with Friends scores.
Can you use these verbs in a sentence?
Sluice, gambol, cajole, decant
Notice that they’re not only active verbs, but their
precise, and they’re lyrical with strong emotional and rhythmic qualities.
Knowing your verbs gives you more flexibility, precision,
and prosody in your writing.
If you said, “the rain cleaned the gutter,” you’d be well
and good,but if “the rain sluiced the gutter,” you'd have more sound, imagery,
and motion just by using a slightly more specific word. But whatevery you do, don’t
let the “gutter be sluiced by the rain”—the rhym is thrown all off and your
writing will be more passive than active.
Literary Waistline (Or Waste in a Line)
Another important part of using active voice is making
sure you don’t waste any words in a given line of writing.For me, the most valuable tool in trimming
your writing is using a “poetic weed.” The idea there is to weed every line of
writing as if it is a line of poetry
sure every verb is active and specific
any unnecessary words –articles, conjunctions, and prepositional phrases
every image—is it as tight, concrete, and specific as it could be?
Developing new writing habits is like changing your
lifestyle—diets don’t work—and it’s a day by day battle.You have to
A. study the writing of other writers
who have tight active voice you admire.Look
closely at how they do it.Teach yourself the tricks. Here’s a look at
reading as a writer. Read
B. Practice the techniques as you
write. It’s usually better to do it in writing exercises
because while you’re composing a story, poem,
or pictutre book, you want to be in the
moment, not thinking about if you’re
using the right verb.Stay in the zone
of your work.
C. Revise. You learn how to hone you writing by revising. Notice I said revise—not
edit. Revise means to re-see. Look
at your writing in new ways. Play with it, expand it,
contract it.Turn a story into a poem. A poem into a
song.Flex your writing like your
muscles—sprint, do yoga, run the
stairs, find writing muscles you never knew you had.
D. Repeat. You internalize new
writing techniques by using them again and again.It
takes quite a few morning runs
before you get into the routine of it. Writing works the
same way.Overtime, you internalize the new writing
techniques and make them your
own so that you don’t even have to
think about it.You’ll write in active
voice as easily as
you prepare your morning coffee.
So, Who is Ready to Give It a Try? (AKA The Contest Part of the Post)
If you’re ready
to take your active voice to the next level, then follow this prompt.
1. Find an
author who has great active voice. Sit down, take apart the writing. Look at
how the active voice is specifically constructed.Make a list of how it’s done.Ruminate on it a bit.Hmm.There’s a nice verb. Ruminate.Lovely sound quality there.
for 5-10 minutes on one of the following prompts
A. A child tries something new
B. A person solves a problem
C. A family gets a new pet
3. Go back
through and use the techniques described in this post and/apply the techniques
used by the author you studied in step 1 to your own writing.
4. Read and
reread what you produced in step 3.Tinker with it.Oh, another nice
verb, eh? I can just hear those words clunking around in your head as you work.
5. Set aside
your work and write it all again. See what new things emerge.
Post them in the
comments on this blog to enter the READY, SET, ACTION contest which runs from
9/1/17 to 9/30/17. The winning will be featured on Sylvanocity: A Creative Community
with a profile on the author.They’ll
also receive a nice literary surprise to further their growth as a writer.
mind.The comments on my blog must be
approved before they appear, so if your entry doesn’t appear, be patient. It