Use of the Passive Voice

A couple of months ago I submitted the *Bear and Hunter* Series first book to a review site. I received an email back within a day.  The email stated the reviewer liked the content and idea but thought the writing needs polishing. Tense problems was one of the editing issues. The reviewer recommended finding a professional editor to give it the needed once over.

Being I have my Bachelor of Arts in English and my co-author has her Master’s we consider ourselves fairly decent editors. Also because there isn’t only one set of eyes we thought more editing mistakes would be caught. Personally I set my Word (I am old school) to find passive voice mistakes.  So we thought we would do a pretty good job and I think overall we did. Yet, I believe our mode was more catch the spelling and the absolute egregious grammar when there was some.

Fortunately I know a woman who is a professional editor.  She told me her prices and asked what type of editing needed to be done. Because she is a friend of mine she offered to look over the first chapter for free. She disagreed about it having a tense problem but she was concerned about changing between two perspectives. She felt it confused the reader. On my character’s perspective my friend described my problem as “distance,” moving in and out, being in Katnes’ head and then outside of Katnes’ head.

With these brief oral notes I went through the suggestions with my co-author and we found Google Docs was a better alternative in editing (again old school). After talking about it for some time my Harlow Hunter hit upon what was actually wrong with my writing–it is passive. She also agreed about the two person perspective and we are working on a way to fix this problem.

I began the process of editing. This mean almost a complete rewrite and then, of course, republishing the new writing. Harlow Hunter is editing as well. Between the two of us, with this new perspective on editing needed, we will be able to improve our past writings and better our future writings.

While starting this process I began to think about why I write in the passive voice in the first place. I am good at public speaking. Public speaking many times is a call to action or a persuasive argument. Neither of these can be accomplished using passive voice. Many say I have teaching and leadership qualities. These qualities, as with public speaking point to a strong, active voice.

However, I am also a negotiator and I like to compromise and help people find compromise. There are times where I uncertain of myself, like all people, especially when faced with an unknown situation. So the passive voice sneaks into my syntax. People are more likely to listen to you if you speak in a way not perceived as telling them what to do. Giving people choices helps in situations where neither party wants to give ground. The passive voice can, therefore, have a use and in some cases (because the English Language is ridiculous at times) is the only way a sentence makes sense.

Outside of my personal use passive voice can set a tone, the personality of the character you are writing. If you want a character to come across as weak, frighten, uncertain the passive voice can help shape those traits.

In my case Katnes is not any of those. So rewrite/edit it is. After all the *Bear and Hunter Series* is the story of two strong women and the adversities they face–which can’t be solved using the passive voice.