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Passive Voice in dialog

PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:09 am
by C-Girl
How important is it to remove passive voice within dialog? Many people speak in passive voice and for some characters, passive voice sounds more natural for them. Is passive voice within dialog ever unacceptable? How much is too much?

Re: Passive Voice in dialog

PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:23 am
by shadowwalker
Dialog is the character speaking, so whatever grammatical errors, regional phrasing, etc, the character would use is acceptable. Personally, I would say the only caution in dialog is not getting too heavily into dialect/accents, which can make reading/understanding a chore, and definitely takes the reader out of the story.

Re: Passive Voice in dialog

PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 11:34 am
by C-Girl
Thank shadowwalker.

Re: Passive Voice in dialog

PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2016 1:24 pm
by James A. Ritchie
I don't hear many people, other than sportscasters, use passive very often in speech. If you use passive voice in dialogue, it needs to be to show one character as a mousy, timid person, and even then I'd go light.

Good dialogue must sound like a real person said it, but it must also be a pleasure to read. Passive is never a pleasure to read, which is why writers are told to avoid it.

Two things new writers in writers classes always complain about is when the instructor challenges their realism, and their dialogue. New writers often base a story on real events and real people, which is good, but only if they understand how to translate these things into fiction. "But that's how it really happened" is one complaint. The answer to this is, "It's fiction. I don't care how it really happened, I care about whether it works in the context of the story, and whether readers will find it exciting and plausible.

The same happens with dialogue. "But that's how he actually said it." Again, I don't care how he actually said it. I care whether it's well-written, a pleasure to read, and sounds like the character would say it.

The common advice is that anything goes in dialogue, but it simply isn't true. Poor writing never works anywhere, and boring writing is instant death. Passive writing is boring writing.

Re: Passive Voice in dialog

PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 2:48 pm
by C-Girl
Thanks James A. Ritchie.