Be An Activist!

If you’re a novelist, the passive voice is rarely your friend. Consider the following:

As the spell was cast, lightning flashed, a great roar was heard, and then a silence fell over the room.


Do you sense something missing? There is no punch in the passive voice because it’s missing a critical element: the person or thing performing the action. Keep in mind that any good story is about the characters. The reader invests her or himself in the characters. We live the story vicariously through the characters’ emotions, actions, defeats, and triumphs. Take the character out of the story, and we’re left with stuff happening. Stuff happens all the time, the reader doesn’t particularly care unless stuff happens in the context of what a character feels about it.

Kurleon drew forth the last of his magickal energies in a final, desperate attempt to stop the Fell Warrior. As he cast the spell lightning flashed from the ends of his fingers, those still alive in the party were shaken by the great roar of the incantation, and then a silence fell over the room.


As you can see, in the second version, the highlight is on Kurleon and the other characters in the scene—as it should be. It’s not about the spell, it’s about the spellcaster. It’s not about what the spell does, it’s about what casting the spell does for the group.