warning, I’m only going to cover the very basics of this topic. For further
reading, I recommend visiting Grammar Girl (http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl)
who has a couple of excellent articles on her website covering this issue. The
topic of Passive Voice comes up a lot in conversations with other writers, and
frequently the term gets used to refer to inactive verb choice. In the same
breath, “passive voice” is often labeled as something that should absolutely
never be used.
actuality, passive voice is a very handy grammatical construct that can be
useful in the right situations.
by first defining exactly what it is. In short, passive voice is
sentence is constructed so that the subject of the sentence is being acted on
rather than doing the acting. Look at these example sentences:
1. Bill and Jane started running the gauntlet.
2. Bill and Jane ran the gauntlet.
3. The gauntlet was run by Bill and Jane.
number 3 is the sentence constructed using passive voice. The first example—the
example that can wrongly be referred to as passive voice—is actually simply the
use of a weaker verb construction. That’s not to say the weaker construction is
wrong either. This might be exactly what you mean to say. But it’s not the
strongest verb choice in the examples. The stronger verb choice, and the
active sentence, is shown in example 2.
when writing fiction, example 2 is the kind of sentence you want to lean
toward. Active voice, strong verb, reads well, says what you want it to say,
simple and straight-forward.
contrast, sentences written in passive voice are often awkward to read. The
sentence doesn’t really say what you want it to, or it is too convoluted for a
reader to navigate smoothly. If you haven’t used the passive construction on
purpose, your writing can feel stilted and create distance with your reader.
Passive voice tends to require more words as well. The writing will feel
tighter if active voice is used. As a side note, if active verbs are used, the
writing also feels tighter. I suspect this is why the two grammar issues are
mistake people tend to make is assuming that every form of “to be” represents
passive voice. This isn’t true. There’s no reason to shun “to be” in all cases.
Sometimes, “to be” is the only verb that fits the sentence.
So when is
passive voice actually a good thing? Occasionally, particularly in speech
writing and corporate memos, passive voice comes in handy when trying to
deflect blame. A classic example is: “Mistakes were made.” By delivering the
sentence this way, the speaker isn’t saying exactly who made those mistakes or
accepting blame for the mistakes directly. Passive voice is great at spinning
facts so that the person using it isn’t actually lying, but they aren’t exactly
being upfront with the full truth.
that help in your fiction? If you have a politician or CEO giving a speech, for
example, they might require passive voice in their dialogue. It’s even possible
your protagonist will use passive voice in their internal thoughts or in
dialogue to avoid accepting blame for their actions. Used with conscious
thought, passive voice can actually be a very powerful tool in your writer’s
arsenal. It’s just important to recognize what it is and why you’re using it.
what passive voice is will enable you to avoid it where you don’t want it and
use it when the writing calls for it. As with all grammar topics, knowing the
“rules” is the only way to effectively use or break them in service of your
fiction. Once you understand the difference between active and passive voice,
you’ll ensure your writing is filled with exactly the types of sentences you
Isabo Kelly highly recommends writers
hunt up actual grammar experts for more on this topic. She still works at
weeding the occasional inadvertent appearance of passive voice out of her own
writing. Her latest fantasy romance release THE DARKNESS OF GLENGOWYN (Fire
and Tears #2) benefits greatly from active voice. For more on Isabo visit her
at www.isabokelly.com, follow her on Twitter @IsaboKelly, or friend her on
During my lunch
hour the other day, I was reading Joseph Campbell’s HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES,
on my iBook application. I was struck by the part about dreams being the stuff
of unresolved childhood issues, which are the seeds of unrealized potential. As
adults, we may have to regress to find those seeds again, in order to undergo
transformation, which is a way of returning to the immortality of our soul.
That got me to thinking about God, faith, and fate. And, of course, you can’t
ponder such things without thinking about love, soul mates, and a sense of
purpose. Thus, the theme for this month’s Keynotes, “Fated Love,” was born.
And then I needed
When I returned
from my bathroom break and illuminated my iPhone, iBook had mysteriously
switched to my Nook application, and my animal totems book was open to the
Kookaburra, of all things. The subtitle read, “The Kookaburra is your power
Huh. Well, that was
curious! Not only because some ghostly hand had decided I needed to read this
passage (and is apparently up on the new OS 7), but also because I had no idea
what a Kookaburra was. Turns out, a Kookaburra is a bird.
The text said: To manifest your dreams, stay centered,
maintain your focus and determination, and let nothing deter you. The best way
to overcome your fear is to face it and do whatever you need to do in order to
accomplish your objective. Release behavior patterns that no longer serve you.
I started crying.
Yes, again, at work (but not as hard as I did this morning on the toilet). I
think the waterworks were for three reasons: One, because I felt like somebody
was paying attention to me (so what if only an angel or disembodied spirit? Who
am I to be picky?) Two, because it was terribly vague (if the great beyond
wanted to give me a don’t-give-up pat on the back, they could have at least
included a time table. Like, “An agent will pick you up in approximately three
months at 18:00 hours”). And three, I wasn’t sure if they were talking about
ambition or love.
Naturally, I had to
get my boss’s input. She said, “I don’t think whatever is in charge could get
any clearer than that. Your need for further clarification is just a
manifestation of your baseless doubts about achieving what you are obviously
destined to do. Take it for what it is, which is a ‘good job, keep up the good
work.’ Focus on what you’ve been doing and it will be fine.” Have I mentioned I
have an awesome boss?
“But what if I end
up alone for the rest of my life? I’d like to think I would be okay with that,
but I wouldn’t be. And I think that makes me flawed and weak and common.”
She rolled her
eyes. “Men are not going to let you live the rest of your life alone. It’s not
possible. Look at you.”
“No, but what if it is?”
sags, and beauty fades.”
assuming everyone else’s problems. You’re not them. Your story is your own.”
evening, I sought the male opinion from a pen pal. He said, “You won’t be
alone, you require someone.”
cringed. Like I had gone to school naked and forgotten my homework on the bus.
“How do you know that about me? Doesn’t that make me co-dependent and
Red. Everyone wants someone. It’s human nature.”
As much as
I’d like to deny it, relationships have deeply affected my self-concept, (not
the least of which, my failed marriage). Campbell states, “In the United States
there is a pathos of inverted emphasis: the goal is not to grow old, but to
remain young; not to mature away from mother, but to cleave to her. And so,
while husbands are worshiping their boyhood shrines...their wives, even after
fourteen years of marriage and two fine children produced and raised, are still
on the search for love--which can come to them only through the mythical crea tures
of their dreams or the big screen.” I don’t know one woman over thirty who
wouldn’t understand this statement (and a few over the age of twenty-five).
Look at the
popularity of Romance fiction, for example, which was the largest share of the
U.S. consumer market in 2012 at 16.7 percent. Of that 16.7 percent, 91 percent
are women. And these women are no morons (as my grandmother would say), these
are women between the ages of 30 and 54, earning between $50,000.00 and
$99,000.00 per year, more than half of which are married or have a significant
other. And they are loyal readers; 44% percent considering themselves “frequent
readers,” and 41% percent have been reading for over twenty years.
here I am. Trying to be a romance writer, a weaver of fantasies and a proponent
of the “happily ever after,” aka, Fated Love. Maybe that seems like a wrong direction
to take if I want to find love in reality, but a belief in fated love is closer
to reality than you might think.
states, “The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the
world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending; death…and the
crucifixion of our heart... The fairytale of happiness ever after…belongs to
the never-never land of childhood…just as the myth of heaven ever after is for
the old. [But] these in the ancient world were regarded as of a higher rank
than tragedy…of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, [and] a
sounder structure. The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine
comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a
transcendence of the universal tragedy of man.”
words, the happy ending is not a contradiction to “real life,” but hints at the
transcendence of the soul—which is immortal, sustaining, and capable of
transforming. To believe in the happy ending is to integrate anxiety-provoking
ambiguities. This helps us endure and change, when the world around us remains
that. And I’ll take it. In fact, between Campbell and the Kookaburra, I’m
feeling pretty damn optimistic right now. So, I will embrace the Kookaburra’s
magic, and keep reading and writing happy endings. Because in every happy
ending, we are fated to find love, whichever way you slice it. ♥
Mac Perry is a Creative Arts
Therapist, adjunct professor, and aspiring author of urban fantasy. When she is
not corralling her three-year-old son, she is blogging and working on her
passion’s pursuit. To learn more, check out her web site at www.macperry.com,
or her blog at www.macperrysblog.blogspot.com.
Have you found your
soul mate? Is your partner the person you were destined to be with?
Fated love – the
concept that there’s a pre-destined perfect match for each person in the world
– is a universal theme that can be traced back thousands of years. From oral
folklore to written stories, there is a long tradition of tales about couples
who are somehow cosmically meant to be together. These stories run the gamut of
fated love, where the couple goes on to live a long happy life together, to
ill-fated love, where the couple is destined to fail in their efforts to be
One genre where
fated love is found in abundance is in fairy tales. The recurring theme in many
of these stories is a heroine or hero in distress who overcomes adversity with
the help of the person destined to become their spouse. From Cinderella’s
transformation into the belle of the ball under the loving gaze of the handsome
prince, to Sleeping Beauty who is awakened from a spell by the kiss of her one
true love, the power of connecting with the one person you were meant to be
with has universal appeal.
Everyone wants to
be loved and cherished, and many of us believe that our soul mate is out there
somewhere and it’s our destiny to be together. The idea that life is not random
– that there’s a greater power controlling our fate – can be a comforting
concept for many people.
We see the fated
love theme play out in all kinds of novels. From historical novels like GONE
WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell where the hero and heroine are destined to
carry on a passionate love affair across the backdrop of the Civil War;
contemporary romance novels like THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks where the lead
characters overcome many obstacles to finally unite and remain bonded despite
the onslaught of dementia; to ill-fated love stories like A FAULT IN OUR STARS
by John Green where a young cancer-ridden couple fall deeply in love only to be
parted by the tragic disease that consumes them.
The appeal of fated
love is here to stay, and can inspire us as writers of our own romance stories.
From fated love stories with a “happily ever after” ending to ill-fated love
stories that end tragically but teach us meaningful life lessons - destiny is a
powerful concept. ♥
Catherine McNally is an aspiring
author of contemporary romance who recently finished drafting her first novel.
She joined Romance Writers of America in 2013 and found her way to RWA/NYC
where her local chapter members inspire her to pursue her dream of becoming a
The English language is challenging enough, I admit, but try
studying a foreign language if you really want to exercise your gray matter. In
German, for instance, there are six different ways to say the word “the.”
First, one has to consider the noun’s gender (masculine, feminine or neuter).
Then, one must determine case, and we have four possibilities there:
nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. Don’t worry – you don’t have to
memorize these! “But surely there is no such thing as ‘case’ in the English
language,” I hear you say. Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know there was such a thing
as case in English either, until I began to study German a few years ago. Well,
I didn’t know what it was called, but it was always there, nonetheless. Case refers the function a noun or pronoun takes in a sentence.
These are the cases in the English language: *Nominative: the subject of a sentence, the person or thing that
is performing the action of the verb. The nominative pronouns are I, you, he,
she, it, we, they. *Accusative: the direct object, that which receives the action.
Pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, them. *Dative: the indirect object, that which is indirectly affected
by the action of the verb. A preposition must be included or implied. Examples
include to him, with her, for them, etc. *Genitive: This is the possessive case, exemplified by the
pronouns my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, etc.
Okay, I know you’re stuck on that “implied preposition” thing in
the dative case. I’ll explain in the following example: I gave John the book. Clearly, “I” is the subject (nominative),
the one performing the action. But what is the direct object and what is the
indirect object? The book is the direct object (accusative) because the book is
the thing that is being given. John cannot be the direct object because he is
not the thing being given. But if John is the indirect object (dative) where’s
the preposition? The implied preposition is “to” because what you are
really saying is, “I gave the book to John.” Aha, indirect object! But the real question you should be asking is, Why should I
care about any of this? I’ll give you a practical example. Consider the following: “A few members of my critique group sat
down with Janice, an agent with Beastly Books, to discuss our manuscripts. The
only writers Janice invited to submit were Gertrude and I.” This is incorrect.
It should be, “Gertrude and me.” But wait – isn’t “I” is the subject because I
am one of those submitting – I am performing the action of the verb “submit?”
Therefore “Gertrude and I” take the nominative case, right? Read the sentence again. Janice is the subject because she is
performing the action of the main verb in the sentence: “invited.” If you
simplify the sentence it will become clear. “Janice invited us to submit.” You
wouldn’t say, “Janice invited we to submit.”
In complex sentences, with multiple clauses and parenthetical
elements, it is sometimes difficult to identify the role each word takes. The
more words that come between the subject and object – in this case “Janice” the
subject and “Gertrude and me” the object – the more mindful we must be. Knowing
the names of the cases (nominative, accusative, etc.) is not important.
Understanding the principles behind them is. From a practical standpoint, for
example, you wouldn’t want your query letters to be filled with errors. Proper
grammar is essential if we are to be taken seriously as writers. ♥
Lisbeth Eng works as a Compliance
Officer in the financial industry by day and writes historical romance by
night. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English, and speaks a smattering of
German, Italian and French. Please visit her at www.lisbetheng.com.