Passive Writing

Turning Passive Writing into Active Writing

By Janice Seagraves


Since I’ve been seeing a lot of passive writing in the critiques I’ve been doing here lately, I thought I’d do a vlog on passive writing.


What do I mean by passive writing?


Have you ever heard of show and don’t tell?


Passive example: Rose was mad.


What’s wrong with the above sentence? Not much really. It does what it’s supposed to do, it tells us Rose is mad. But it doesn’t show us that Rose is mad.


Active writing example: Rose slammed the door closed then stomped through the room. “That jerk!” Picking up a flower filled vase, she hurled it against the wall where it shatters.


Not a real great example but you get the idea. Notice I used the words: Stomped and Hurled. These are active verbs. I wanted to show action and anger even in my word choice.


Passive writing is that, passive. It doesn’t show the reader anything.


Have you noticed while watching a movie that when an actor portraying a character that is mad, he doesn’t just frown. He stomps, shouts and will nearly always breaks something. He’s showing us he’s angry. And in writing, we need to show it too.


Another example: Rose was sad and wanted to cry.

Again, there is nothing wrong with this sentence, but it’s still telling up and not showing us how the character Rose feels.

Active writing example: She closed the door and leaned on it. A tear worked its way past her control. She rubbed the wetness off her face with an impatient swipe of her fingers.

You can see here that I’m conveying the feeling of sadness without telling you she was sad.