If I had to describe myself, it would be in a word that has many meanings with a complexity which falls off the tongue.
A word made up of many elements, is deceptive in appearance, and creates an illusion from the imagination.
My word would be Phantasmagoric. ~Summer Ross

Monday, August 30, 2010

Action-packed

With the Fight blogfest under way Tomorrow, I thought it fitting to post about action and verbs. Alot of us seasonal writers/ authors know most of our inns and outs when it comes to passive and active in sentences. However sometimes words creep in, stalking our sentences. One of those words I would like to discuss is 
The dreaded "was"....

 "Was" is a horrible criminal, you see he always steels the spot light from our verbs.
 Here is a small paragraph showing you just how sneaky this little guy can be, and well I only call him little because he has three letters, and frankly he packs no punch.

 The next man up was Hammering Harmon. His bat was nervously held on his shoulder. Two strikes and a ball were thrown. The crowd was tense with hope. The fourth pitch was delivered by Old Roundhouse Ford. Even while the ball was in the air, there was a feeling of expectation among the fans. The ball was hit squarely by Harmon. It was lifted up high into left field. It was in the stands. It was his tenth home run.

Look at that! He snuck in there 11 times! Now I realize most of us do not write "was" that many times, but I'm emphasizing here, you know I have to make up for his um....whispers: shortness

So now what can we do? We have to ease him out, we use active verbs in order to do this, and sometimes it takes a little finesse on our part to rearrange the sentence to make it active. Here is the same paragraph "was" free:

 Next, Hammering Harmon trotted up. He shouldered his bat nervously. Two strikes and a ball whipped by him. The tense crowd buzzed with excitement. Old Roundhouse Ford hurled his fourth pitch. Even while the ball hung in midair, expectation shivered through the fans. Harmon blasted the ball, which rocketed over left field and nose-dived into the stands. Harmon had hammered his tenth homer of the year.

As you can see, I replaced all the "was" with active verbs . This increased the flow of the paragraph and made it a more enjoyable read.
remember "was" equals passive sentences.

Now we can go to his sly cousin "That." I say sly because "That" is easily taken care of, simply remove this little devil from your sentence. Most of the time, the sentence will stand alone quite well with out "that" helping.

Go give it a try, highlight all the "was" and "thats" in your written story, and if you are brave post in the comments how many you found. If you only found one or two in the whole piece, CONGRATS!

How many did you find?

31 comments:

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

ah, another blogfest to participate in! I so need to get online more often.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Those are two words I'm very conscious about. I'm constantly having to cut 'that' out. But that so easy to do. At least it doesn't require the rewriting of the sentence for it to work.

Great post, Summer. :D

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Was used to be my greatest culprit. I used to have a sign by my computer stating "Stop the WASes!"

Summer Ross said...

Tamara~~ I have a whole side bar filled with blogfests lol, great for writing or needing to get past that block.

Stina~~ thank you

L.Diane~~ I still have the same problem...lol But I'm always looking for them, I should put a post it up that says "stop the wases" lol

Clara said...

Oh tell me about 'was'. I have a huge problem with that, specially since english isnt my native language...suuucks!

Jen said...

This post was ACTION PACKED for real! I loved it!! I am still learning how to replace certain words with my theasarus but this my friend was an excellent beginning!!!

I now have to find out how many times I'm using was and that... *heading to WIP* I'll let you know what I find :)

Carolyn V. said...

That is awesome advice Summer! I never thought of highlighting those words and replacing them. I'm totally going to copy and tighten my ms. Thanks!

Jules said...

I have something for you on my blog. Lord, I'm so bad at english! :D
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

E. Arroyo said...

Great post! Thanks,

Ladytink_534 said...

I never noticed before! I'll probably put this exercise to good use soon.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, I have way more than two. Uh...way more. Great reminder to liven it up!

Nicole Murray said...

I fall into these evil words snare. Editing expels them but they pollute prose so easily when you're just typing away.

A very important post, with a action blog upon us. And thank you so much for stopping by and reading my entries. You rock!

Elle Strauss said...

Huge difference between para's. Totally amped up the tension and excitement. I don't have time for the blogfest this time, but have fun!

Angie said...

That's so true. "Was" can be such a little pest! Great examples.

Summer Ross said...

Clara~~ "was" can be a tricky problem even for people who speak only English :)

Jen~~ good luck and I hope this post helps. :)

Elana~~ its okay if you have alot, they can always be fixed.

Cruella Collett said...

That was most enlightening that was! ;)

You're right, though. I am terrible with this. I think it is a bad habit I've gotten from my academic writing (where it is also discouraged, but much more common nevertheless). It is so much easier to "blame the passive" than to actually write who did what when. Nasty habit. Thanks for reminding me! :)

Bethany Mattingly said...

Some days I feel like a passive voice ninja and then others I feel like the passive verbs are ninjas and I'm the clueless person about to be attacked. I feel like I'm in a constant war against these little buggers who keep popping up in my work when I'm lease expecting.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

You are dead on the money, Summer. Inactive verbs are just that : inactive. And the prose drags, putting the reader to sleep from having been pushed away from the action.

Great lesson.

Hart Johnson said...

Very good reminder. I remember having to memorize the 'linking verbs' in high school--I think we had to remember 32 of them, but the list was significantly longer--I run that through my mind as I do first edits, because they are an easy fix most of the time.

RosieC said...

I've been working on both of these in my writing for a while, and I'm painfully aware of each of their occurrences. I feel like I should get thirty lashes for each time they pop up. Evil little buggers!

Michelle said...

I am afraid to count. and yes, THAT WAS an amazing post!!

PurpleHeart said...

It's sometimes challenging to rely on MS to catch such minute details. Was is a classic example. Good one, there !

Lynda Young said...

Your examples were really good :)
I throw in heaps of was's and that's when I'm trying to speed write, but i usually edit them out (most of them anyway).

Carol Kilgore said...

Good work! I'm revising now and part of it is searching out these devils.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm getting so much better at eliminating these words from my 1st drafts. There are still lots (obviously) but not as many as before :)

Julie Jabbers said...

What a difference the active verbs make. I will soak up your lesson and implement, or at least try. :)

N. R. Williams said...

I was...note the word, really tired when I worked on a second draft of my short story for critique. Imagine my embarrassment when it was filled with 'wases.'
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

ElizOF said...

Hi Summer,
How are you? Stopped by again and catching up on your new posts. I enjoy reading them. What brought me this time? Woo Us to Your Blog Hop.
Best,
Elizabeth

Mary Campbell said...

your before and after were both great examples. thank you for this lesson you did a great job of showing us the difference.

Dayana Stockdale said...

Thanks for this! When I'm editing I'll be sure to mutilate all those WAS words until they flee from my manuscript.

Anonymous said...

Complex Post. This enter helped me in my university assignment. Thanks Alot

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