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Workshop 13

First, sorry about the wonky formatting. I tried, but couldn't fix it...

Passive voice.
Do you know what passive voice is and why you shouldn't use much passive voice in your writing?

It's fairly easy to define, but much harder to avoid in you writing.

Passive Voice: It can be defined as using the object of a sentence as the subject, combined with a the "be" form and past participle.


The snowman                               has been melted                         by the sun.

Poor snowman! Frosty just can't take the heat!

But, seriously, here's the breakdown.  
The snowman is the wrongly placed subject.
has been melted uses the "be" form verb has been and adds the past participle melted.
by the sun is a prepositional phrase, with sun as the object of the preposition.

We can remove the "be" form helping verbs, change the subject and remove the prepositional phrase, and TA-DA! no more passive voice!

The sun                                                        melted                                                      the snowman.

Who is doing the action of the sentence? Your subject! So generally speaking, passive voice occurs when the subjecy of the sentence is placed elswhere in the sentence. This is not always the case, but it's a good rule to follow if you want to eliminate passive voice.

Here is a list of "To be" verb forms:
is, are, am , was, were, has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being

Keep in mind these verb forms are not always passive verbs. They can be a state of being and does not make the sentence passive. 


The snowman is a melted puddled.

This sentence describes the state of the snowman and is not a passive sentence.

Myth buster:

Not all active voice needs to contain action! In the example above, there is not action taking place. BUT the sentence is not passive!

so, how do you check for passive voice in your writing? Here's a good check list you can use while revising!

1. First, look for the the "to be" form followed by a past participle (usually words ending with "ed")
    If you don't see these, move on to step two.

2. Ask if there is action going on in the sentence. If yes, look for WHO is doing the action, or should 
    be doing the action. (In my very first example, the sun should be doing the action.)

3. Change things around if you need to!

More examples:

Her baby was delivered by a wonderful doctor. 
 Change to:

A wonderful doctor delivered her baby.

The ice cream cone was dropped by the little girl.
Change to:

The little girl dropped the ice cream cone.

Now, is it ever okay to use passive voice? Yes, yes, yes! When, you ask?

1. When you want to emphasis an object. Example:

Passive: 500 votes are needed to pass the law.

Active: The law needs 500 votes to pass.

Which is better to use? It depends on what you want to emphasis. Is it the law, or the required votes that would make the sentence stand out?

2. When you don't know, or don't want to tell who the subject is. Example:

Passive: The tests were performed yesterday.

This sentence is fine in the passive voice when it doesn't matter who performed the tests. Maybe you want to emphasis the tests, and it doesn't mater who did them or who had the tests done.

These are only few examples of passive voice, how to spot passive writing and reasons to use passive voice in your own writing. I hope they have been helpful!


Plot Hole Fixes

Quick Ideas for revising your plot!

1. Never stop looking for new ideas. Yes, your story may be finished and you are revising, but never turn a cold shoulder to an awesome idea. ALWAYS keep pen and paper handy for jotting down good ideas. You may use them in this story, or you may save them for later. Who knows?

2. Your MC needs to problems to solve. One is personal and the other is plot related. It's a good idea to begin the story with a personal problem. This problem will be complicated by the plot problem. AND the personal areas will affect how your MC handles the plot problems.

3. Have a second look at your MC's stakes. They better be high and involve physical or emotional loss, or both. or your readers may not care what happens. This, of course, means they'll toss your book on a shelf.

4. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You've got to have conflict. Have you been too nice to your MC? Did you find it hard to complicate matters and make things worse than worse? If so, rip it out and rewrite. If you don't have conflict, you need it! Don't hold back! Give it all the trouble can. Your MC will thank you, and so will your readers!

5. Maybe you can add a new character to liven things up. Give your new buddy a high stake and awesome reasons to either love your MC, or hate her. Write a quick backstory (for yourself) so you'll know what the relationship with the new character and your MC was in the past, and plop him down in the middle of a flat scene. Watch things catch fire!

That's it for now! 
Any questions? Thoughts? Comments?

If you want to send in a page for a mentor to look over for passive voice or plot holes, do so as son as possible. This weeks mentors will get a half page answer to your question! Yippie! Welcome back to Operation Agent Ink!!


  1. so glad you're back!

    I also heard another example of how to tell it is passive writing: If you can put "by Zombies" after the sentence, and it makes sense, it is passive. For example.

    She was killed. (by Zombies) = passive.
    Molly killed her. (by Zombies)= active :)

    I can't tell you how often I've been doing that and finding a way to reword - often using a thesaurus. I have to say, the writing is getting better. Slowly :)

    1. Thank TJ:) And thanks for the tip. Adding a phrase that starts with "by" is a great way to check for passive voice!

  2. I definately need help on this one! Sending it in!

  3. The snowman melted. The sun kicked his ass.

    I have students who I have to assist on a daily basis with grammar. To me, it's easy; to them (International students), it's akin to pulling teeth.

    Good post!

    1. Thanks Jeremy. I love teaching and grammar is one of those classes enjoy.
      Thanks! How are you doing, btw?

  4. Yay you're back! I've been hanging out for a new workshop! That's for the passive voice advice, I know I splatter passive voice all through my WIP's so this is great to show exactly what it is. Thanks!!!

    1. Hey Katie! Thanks! It's good to be back:)
      Passive voice is easy to write, especially in my first draft. But it's it's also pretty easy to edit!

  5. I am going to need to check my MS for both passive and plot holes. I fear many errors. TJ, thanks for the "by zombies" trick. I saw that posted somewhere else and then promptly forgot the phrase. :)

    1. It's funny. Teaching kids passive voice in school, I used a lot of passive voice examples and had the kids removing passive and changing to active. I always tried to come up with exciting or funny sentences to catch their attention and make it memorable for them.

      I found out that writing a novel is different than generating funny sentences to help remove passive voice!

    2. I saw it posted on Twitter - and kept it.

      T - It is a lot different! I find it challenging. Frustrating. Fun. Mind numbing. You name it LOL

  6. Very nice article, Ink...I like that Agent Ink is back!

    1. Awww! Thanks, ML. *blushes while shuffling feet on floor*

  7. Welcome back! And another helpful post... love it!

    1. It's good to be back! I missed you all!
      Thanks for stopping by today:)

  8. Really great tips and a v. helpful post! Will go check for passive voice now ;)

    1. Hi Vikki! Thanks:)
      How are you doing? I hope you've got you computer files back...

  9. Welcome back! Awesome workshop :). Definitely gives me a lot to think about as I go through the manuscript for the final times as far as making sure to use active voice where I can. Thanks for showing us when and how to use passive voice appropriately.

    1. Hi Lora! Thanks:) I'm glad you're here and loving the workshop! I'm using these techniques in my own writing, too:)

  10. Wonderful post! Great that you're back... too bad that means I have to get back to work ;)

    1. I'm a mad slave driver turned writer, I have an ink pen and I know how to use it! hehe!!
      Thanks Tonja, and congrats on your win!!

  11. I tend to use passive voice way too much. I try and edit it out when I am in the revising stage though. I was having trouble with a plot hole for the novel I just finished for NaNoWriMo (my WIP) but I figured it out so it's good now. I am in the first pass of it and I take notes when I see something that should be fixed. One thing I forgot to do is bring back her mother at the end of it, I sort of just "forgot" about her. LOL.

  12. Passive voice is one of the easier things to fix during revision. Plot holes take extra work, in my opinion anyway. But it's a good thing you remember poor old mom. She might have felt left out...


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