I want to explore how a few writing concepts relate to this mind-shift from story-writing to story-telling. The first concept is the most straight forward: Passive Voice versus Active Voice. These are two different ways you can write any sentence. Active is direct. While passive sort of beats around the bush.

  • Passive: The ball was hit.
  • Active: I hit the ball.
  • Passive: Knives Out is considered the best movie of 2019 by me.
  • Active: I considered Knives Out the best movie of 2019.
  • Passive: While passive sort of beats around the bush.
  • Active: While passive beats around the bush.

Writers learn this basic rule early on, and now from a storyteller perspective, I see why. It’s how we would naturally express the sentence in order to clearly communicate it. It’s the simplest way to the point. But during my call, my coach described it in a way I’ve never heard before.

I had written, “I laughed making it impossible to say goodbye and walk away.” She told me this could be a lot stronger. It becomes active if you write, “I laughed and realized I wasn’t going to walk away.” This is now a decision the storyteller has made. “I decided I’m staying,” he says. This decision not only is clearer and visual, but it carries more weight and consequences.

I used to write “The ball was hit,” thinking that it was closer to the action. But I’m starting to notice when I read sentences like that, I want to scream, JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS. More on this in the next post: Intimating vs Telling.

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Update – While working on a scene, I just edited two sentences from passive to active, and I want to tact them on here.

  • Passive: A smile climbed up my face that I wanted to share with Dave, but I couldn’t away from Tony.
  • Active: I smiled and I wanted to share it with Dave, but I would not look away from Tony.
  • Passive: I wanted to run, and yet in that unruly smile was something vulnerable. I couldn’t leave him stranded.
  • Active: I wanted to run, and yet in that unruly smile was something vulnerable. I stayed by his side.