Elizabeth S. Craig writes about passive verbs:
What people sometimes confuse as passive voice is really the use of static verbs instead of dynamic (or active) verbs. But frequently editors will ask you to reword sentences with static verbs because you could write a stronger sentence with dynamic verbs. Journalist Constance Hale wrote an interesting article for the New York Times in April about static and dynamic verbs and some subcategories of each (I loved her list of wimpy verbs.)Read the rest of Elizabeth's article here: Passive Voice with Elizabeth S Craig.
Although hunting down “to be” words isn’t necessarily going to help you create active voice sentence structure, if you have a lot of linking verbs in your story, you might want to make sure you’re showing, not telling. So even though Anna was mad isn’t passive, it might make for stronger writing for you to say Anna slammed John’s plate on the table in front of him, making green peas fly off. Frequently, when writers talk about finding linking verbs in their manuscript, they’re really advising us to avoid using weak verbs.
If you're looking for a good article on the passive voice and how to avoid wimpy sentences I highly recommend Elizabeth's article.
Another great article on how to avoid passive sentences is the one Elizabeth recommended: Make-or-Break Verbs by Constance Hale. Here's a sampling:
Fundamentally, verbs fall into two classes: static (to be, to seem, to become) and dynamic (to whistle, to waffle, to wonder). (These two classes are sometimes called “passive” and “active,” and the former are also known as “linking” or “copulative” verbs.) Static verbs stand back, politely allowing nouns and adjectives to take center stage. Dynamic verbs thunder in from the wings, announcing an event, producing a spark, adding drama to an assembled group.This reminds me of the advice Stephen King repeated gave in his book On Writing to use strong verbs and, as much as possible, avoid the use of adverbs and even adjectives.
. . . .Power Verbs Dynamic verbs are the classic action words. They turn the subject of a sentence into a doer in some sort of drama. But there are dynamic verbs — and then there are dynamos. Verbs like has, does, goes, gets and puts are all dynamic, but they don’t let us envision the action. The dynamos, by contrast, give us an instant picture of a specific movement. Why have a character go when he could gambol, shamble, lumber, lurch, sway, swagger or sashay? Picking pointed verbs also allows us to forgo adverbs. Many of these modifiers merely prop up a limp verb anyway. Strike speaks softly and insert whispers. Erase eats hungrily in favor of devours. And whatever you do, avoid adverbs that mindlessly repeat the sense of the verb, as in circle around, merge together or mentally recall.
Other articles you might like:
- Stephen King: 15 tips on how to become a better writer
- What To Write About: Fiction That Sells
- Henry Miller's 11 Writing Commandments
Photo credit: photo by Vincepal on Flickr