Sunday, July 1, 2012

Damn You, Passive Language!

I write in past perfect, third person alternating. I don't know why I decided to do this when I started writing. It wasn't a conscious decision. I assume I was influenced, unknowingly, by gender norms. Most historical romance is written in past perfect, third person. (A recent exception - Keeping the Castle by Patricia Kindl. I recommend it to anyone. A joy to read).

My poor critique partner, Raquel Byrnes, is a trooper when it comes to slapping me regarding passive language. She writes first person present Romantic Suspense and her scenes are active. Of course, I don't have car chases, drug cartels, or hurricanes (Hurricane Erin is coming soon in Bayou Blue, the third Shades of Hope books-- Raquel is awesome) but my story still needs to have a driving pace. Actually, what I have that she doesn't is sex (that's a no-no in Inspiration genre norms). It's hard for a sex scene to feel intense when it's full of had, and then, that, and was.

Ridiculously passive and awkward: He was aroused by her, so he had bent her over the railing.
Active: Aroused, he bent her over the railing.

Yes, I know, that was tacky. I was proving a point. Plus, I never claimed to be classy. Just know that it could have been worse -- much worse.

Right now Raquel is helping me fine tune the start of Possessing Karma. This last critique I received from her was full of yellow highlighted 'had.' Earlier I said she slapped me because that's what it feels like; seeing a page full of yellow squared is really an eye opener. I have to reprogram myself or something.  Thank God for Raquel.

I would say passive language is my biggest challenge -- besides procrastination.

What is your Achilles heel of writing?


dolorah said...

I have too many issues to list effectively. But, adjectives and adverbs are probably the worst. See?

A good crit partner is invaluable.


Susan Kane said...

Struggling with passive language is a real misery. I do it so often. Sigh.

Erin Kane Spock said...

@ Donna and Susan -- I don't mean to say passive language is my only problem, but it is one I think I train myself out of.
Thanks for your comments.

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