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Noticing Newbies: July 02, 2014 Issue [#6401]

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Noticing Newbies

 This week: Show! Don't Tell
  Edited by: ember_rain
                             More Newsletters By This Editor  

Table of Contents

1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

As a Newbie, I struggled to find my place here. It took a couple of tries. Then I found a group and a friend that put a smile on my face and made me want to be here. I want to be that friend for all of you. So grab a cup of tea and have a nice read as I help you find your ways through the ends and outs of Writing.com.

The best thing about this place... Even Dyslexics like me, that like to tilt at windmills, have a chance for greatness. If you find a grammar or spelling mistake accept my apology now. Spell and Grammar check just doesn't get them all. I will, on occasion, use this space to explain things I have learned to both help solidify them in my mind and to help others that might struggle with it as well. Homeschooling my kids taught me that I learn best when teaching.

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Letter from the editor

We all do it. From the average sixth grader writing their first short story, to the seasoned Mod with several books under their belt, we all do it. We all say it too--Show! Don't Tell. But, what does that really mean? We all know the example. "Don't tell me he walked across the floor. Show me he walked across the floor." Doesn't really help does it. How are we suppose to show? What is it that is holding back our ability to show? The answer:

Passive Voice

What exactly do I mean by passive voice?

The car is blue. Okay what do we know from that sentence? We know the subject is a car and that the car is in a state of being blue. Do we know if the car moves? Do we know how it moves? Do we know anything about this car other than the fact it is blue? No, we don't.

Active Voice

The blue car raced down the hill in the driver's search for ice cream.

Now what do we know about the car? We know that it is blue. We know that it is currently racing down a hill. We know it has a driver that likes ice cream. By simply changing the verb from a "to be" or "state of being" verb, also known as a linking verb, (Links the subject to a state of being) we allow ourselves room to not just "show" the action but to provide much more info about the state of the car's being than just that it's blue.

So now that we have established what passive voice is. Lets establish what it isn't.

It isn't a grammar issue. I can feel Katzendragonz glaring at me right now. It is often taught as a grammar issue, I believe because it helps get the seriousness of the situation through the minds of people like me who love passive voice. Do I want published? Sure. Do I want to self publish? Maybe/Maybe not, I haven't made up my mind yet. If I want published by a publishing house, then I have to watch the "to be" verbs. I know this. What I also know... This is as much a stylization issue as my choosing to use an ellipse instead of a colon is.

I tease her of course. She is an amazing teacher and I am honored that she is going to allow me to take over the Grammar Garden at New Horizons next semester. The truth is, if you're a newbie at writing you should avoid passive voice pretty much at all costs in your fiction writing until you have a good grasp of active voice. In order to get that grasp you must understand what constitutes as active and passive voice.

It is an important stylization tool that must be used wisely and carefully. So when can you use it?


"James is at the creek. They caught a mess of crappy, if you want to go down and help," Sara called through screen door, wiping her hands on her worn apron.

I don't think I have to say that the setting for this is a southern town. The dialogue does that for you. If you're choosing between writing in passive voice or trying to be Uncle Remus, writing accented dialogue that possibly only you can understand--go with the passive voice dialogue.

Without the use of passive voice, no writer in the world could capture dialogue correctly. Without passive voice there would be no Yoda. We have linking verbs for a reason. That reason isn't for narration in fiction but for language clarification. How else is your character going to be able to tell her friends that her new car is a blue convertible? In dialogue it works despite the limits on its descriptive nature. In narration it takes the story right out of "Story Telling" and leaves you with just the tell.

Scientific Papers.

Are you writing about the boiling point of different liquids? The point at which different solids become liquids and different liquids become solid? If yes, then by all means use passive voice. If not, then you might want to try to find a more active way to say things.

So how do we fix passive voice?

First we have to understand that active voice means that our characters are acting on something.

The blue car raced down the hill. In this sentence, the blue car acted upon the hill.

"If you're looking for James, go down to the creek. They caught a mess of crappy." No longer is James in a state of being with the creek. Now, "you" are in the position of looking for James at the creek." The action is now on you and not James or the creek.

Secondly, we have to ask ourselves: Is the actor, unknown or irrelevant?

Do we need to be deliberately vague?

Is it a universal or generally accepted truth?

You want to emphasis a person or thing that is being acted upon.

One Last Tip

here are a couple out there for fiction writers that might help somewhat. For the most part, expecting a grammar checker to catch something that is a stylization issue, rather than a grammar error, is about the same as my expecting spell check to know when I mean "there" instead of "their" or as Katzendragonz pointed out, "your" and "you're"

Now get out there and start editing for passive voice. I know you can do it!

Editor's Picks

 Invalid Item 
This item number is not valid.
#1939885 by Not Available.

 Passive Voice   (E)
To passive or not to be passive? That is the question!
#1874311 by Krissy

 Invalid Item 
This item number is not valid.
#1420330 by Not Available.

Nobody Likes a Passive Sardine Sandwich  (E)
The Sardine Sandwich plows a path of innovation through a sea of mud.
#837029 by ♥HOOves♥

 Dealing with the Passive Voice?  (E)
Passive Verbs haunted my writing. I now possess the answer to curing this Black Death.
#1758458 by Rixfarmgirl

No newsletter on this topic would be complete without the inclusion of the late, great, Rixfarmgirl . We miss you!

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Ask & Answer

What readers said about last months newsletter.

Elfin Dragon - contest hunting said: I like your story of the hens and roosters. It reminds me of what I need to do to make my stories better, especially my main novel. It's the most difficult one since my main character lives an incredibly long time. I need to make sure the readers see her flaws, or what she perseeves as flaws, or no one will connect with her or any other character I write.

BIG BAD WOLF said: Nobody is perfect.

Teerich - 2019 said: I am currently attending a study group on Shakespeare. Our discussion on Henry IV, Part 1, gave me some much-needed insight into character-development. Also, I was given a useful pro-forma for developing characters which I have found useful. It allows me to have a more rounded character as I develop their back story.

Quick-Quill said: This was the perfect example of heroes and anti-heroes. Your story showed how we can make our characters work with these points. Just when we are ready to kill them off (if we've done a little forethought) we can resurrect them with a salvation of sorts. If they show some redeeming quality we can cut them slack as a reader and let them move about on the pages a little longer. We readers read with HOPE. Hope the ending will be happy for all and someone bad will see the light and be changed. (Saving this NL for reference)

The Newbie Corner With Writing ML Tips

Drop Note Creation by The Run-on King PDG Member

         I would like to talk about using ML code for enhancing your review forms or your blog. How many of you have seen the drop down boxes used to hide away the goofs they have found? It is a nice trick. Here is how it is done. You type in {dropnote:"Hide until needed"}.
I used "Hide until needed" as a filler to get it to display things you add the quotes and the topic it is hiding. Next we add the text we want to hide until needed. {/dropnote}

Example: Click here
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