Passive Voice

written by Ken Preston | Creativity, Editing

January 25, 2024

This is flat, passive writing, interrupting the action with a detailed flashback and attempting to tell the reader too much instead of letting them figure it out for themselves.

The door was opened by Pete. Bullets were fired at him by Hank. Pete got down on the floor because he didn’t want to get hit by a bullet that was being fired at him by Hank. Why did Hank hate him so much? Was it because of that time five years ago when Pete had had an affair with Hank’s wife? But how could he resist? Cynthia had been the most gorgeous woman on the earth, until the acid was splashed in her face by Hank and she had to have plastic surgery.

Here it is rewritten in active voice, with the protagonist taking action rather than it simply happening to him. Also notice how details are left out to let the reader work out later, and how Hank never answers Pete's questions; he has his own agenda, much like in real life.

Pete opened the door and immediately threw himself on the ground as a hail of bullets shattered a window beside him.

‘Hank! Is that you?’ Pete yelled.

‘You just had to come back, didn’t you?’ Hank’s voice echoed off the buildings.

Pete hugged the ground like it was a lover. ‘Why’d you have to turn psycho on Cynthia?’

‘I gave her a new face, Pete. She’s real pretty now.’

Hank punctuated his words with another burst of gunfire.

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