Archive | August 2014

Uncle Josh is feeling a bit sensitive about Passive Narration

First, I want to be clear that I’m not in one of those hypersensitive “am I the only person who recognizes passive voice these days” moods, because what’s bugging me isn’t strictly speaking, passive voice. In fact, I think proper passive voice would help cure my ill.

I am workshopping a novel and for some reason phrases like “pain coursed through my body” are standing out and begging for the red-pen treatment. Similarly, “the blood spill on the floor made me slip” bugs me.

Maybe I’m being peevish from not-enough-coffee-and-sleep.

These phrases are not gramattically Passive Voice. I know that. But they are still, to me, passive. “Pain coursed through my body” is generic, anyway, and could be replaced with something sharper. The second example at least has some action to it, but “I slipped on the blood” seems the better, more direct choice.

I have made an argument for proper passive voice earlier (okay, back in 2006). These examples that I’m finding don’t fit that mold. Granted, my home-grown example was crafted to point this out.

I see this a lot, emotions or sensations doing something to  the narrative character or their body. It always bothers me, which probably means my own writing is full of it.

I also see a challenge to fixing it. It is too easy for me to fall into a Adams/Pratchett inspired joke like “it landed on my foot and I tried the hundred-yard dash to the moon” or something equally silly. To keep things serious, I have to wonder if scratching the sentence is the wiser move.


Sigh. At least it’s off my chest.