Saturday, August 6, 2011

Passive Verbs and Qualifiers

Post by NCW member Pam Wolf

A few years ago I saw Fried Green Tomatoes, a great movie you may have seen also. It was the kind of movie that made you laugh and cry and nod your head. It was also a kind of mystery story and a story within a story. I liked it because still, I could keep up with it. And I learned some things.

I liked the story within a story where one character experienced an epiphany. She spoke a phrase that sticks in my mind to this day. Have you ever seen something that changed your life and said, ”It was a sign” My sister and I say this often when things happen that verify what we had been thinking about doing or answered a question we had been trying to answer for years.

It was a sign, was what I heard in my head at my writer’s critique group a couple of weeks ago. As an icebreaker, one of the participants asked us to share what it was about writing that ‘bugged us’. Passive verbs and Qualifiers popped into my head. Not procrastination, editing, revisions, or even sitting so long I had to run to make it to the bathroom. No, the words, Passive Verbs and Qualifiers, came out of my mouth.

I’ve never been good at grammar or spelling. Since I have started to write again, I try hard but still struggle with everything I write. I have asked myself more than once. Why? Well, this is it. All my life I have been kind of a slow person. Not really passive per se but I do take my time. One of the biggest culprits for me is “was” and others like it (like is and was??) they slow down and sometimes stop the reader from reading.

And my writing is also littered by my maybe’s, almost’s, sometime’s, someday’s, and if’s, etc. I qualify when I’m going to the store, when I’m going to write, when I am going to get this done or start that, if I like or don’t like something…it goes on and on.

So the ‘sign’ I encountered pointed out to me the reason my writing is full of qualifiers and passive verbs. That’s who I am. Oh, sigh….By the way when I checked the spell checker I had not misspelled any words, anyway. There is hope.

What bugs you about writing?


Michelle Fayard said...

The fact that you see those passive and filler words means you're many steps ahead of the game. I edit both fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, and perhaps the worst thing of all is when it seems as if the author has no desire to improve or change his or her manuscript. Now that's my bugaboo!

P.S. I'm a new follower who found you through Marlena Cassidy's blog.

Marlena Cassidy said...

I've been squashing passive voice for years, and it still (still!) worms its way into my writing. That you recognize it in your own writing and don't make excuses for it means that you're in tune with it and can fix it with time and patience. Just keep working hard!

And hi there, Michelle. Fancy seeing you here. (;

Jan Cline said...

I too have been learning lately to remove those words from my MS. It's tempting to emphasize your sentences - you want to prove your passion by using those qualifiers. And passive...dont even get me started! One of my worst habits. Still working on it.
Great post. Blessings!

Patricia Stoltey said...

What bugs me the most? When I correct one goofy bad habit, another always pops up to take its place. Where I used to pepper my stories with the word "back" (step back, sit back, lie back, turn back), I now habitually sprinkle on lots of "downs" and "ups" (sit down, stand up, etc.). It's a neverending battle to eliminate unnecessary words.

pam2spicy said...

Hey, Many thanks for all the great encouragement. I will do better..I will do better..I will...

Dean K Miller said...

What bugs me most is that there's always more writing than there is time.

But on the bright side, it is always there for me to do!

Kay Theodoratus said...

What bugs me most ... changes. I think it depends on what I'm spending most of my time on. At the moment, it's marketing.

I think, like others have said, the most important thing is you recognize your foibles.

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