Times to use Passive Voice

by Justina
(MI )

Question: I know when you want time to pass and for people to see the action, Active Voice is better.

But aren't they're times when Passive Voice is better?

For example, maybe you want to go in slow motion.
If I was writing one slow motion thing in a story, it would be like this

The ball was thrown by the boy, his arms controlled by his brain, signaling him to throw it.

Answer: Passive voice doesn't slow things down. In the example you give, what gives the sense of slower motion is the way you add details to break the action down into stages.

You could rewrite the sentence as "The boy threw the ball..." and the pacing would be the same.

What passive voice does convey is a weaker sense of agency, as though these events are not happening as much by conscious intent.

However, to answer your question, there are times when you may prefer to use passive voice, for instance if you want to downplay conscious intent, because that's the worldview you want to convey. Sometimes the do-er of the action is unknown or impersonal. You can also use the passive voice if you or your character wish to hide the do-er from the reader.

Even then, it is usually preferable to use active voice. For instance, these two sentences are pretty close, but I suspect many people would prefer the second one...

"Suddenly, Dave was struck from behind with a blunt instrument."


"Dave felt a sudden blow from behind with a blunt instrument."

Passive voice also comes with a cost. Using it voice extensively can make your story less clear and therefore more challenging for the reader to follow.

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