In a sentence, voice can be simply explained as the relation between the subject of the sentence and the action of the verb. The voice that is largely used in a story makes a huge impact in setting the pace of the story. An active voice is used to depict quick moving high action scenes while a passive voice is used in the slower scenes. How can one tell if active or passive voice is in use?
This is the more widely used voice because it is simpler and straightforward to phrase. An example of active voice would be ‘James loves Kate.’ In this simple sentence, James is the subject, love is the action and Kate is the object. In active voice, the subject does the action.
‘I downloaded it from the internet.’ In this example, I is the subject, download is the action, and ‘it’ is the object. Another way to look at it would be to say the action is happening to the object of the sentence. A few more examples;
· She walked along the street.
· He is eating pizza
· Peter ran the to the bus
· He knocked on the door
This voice is more descriptive of the action in relation to the object. Simply put, this voice is more descriptive of the action happening to the object, or action as done by the subject of the sentence.
Instead of ‘James loves Kate,’ it becomes ‘Kate is loved by James.’ This changes the focus of the sentence from James to Kate. Kate becomes the subject of the sentence but she is not doing the action but rather becomes the recipient of the action.
The word ‘by’ is often used to highlight the doer of the action; ‘the father raised his son,’ becomes ‘The son was raised by his father.’ The action in these examples is said to be passive, waiting to be described by the narrator.
In the passive voice, the past participle of the verb ‘to be’ is typically used in many sentences;
· ‘The boys ate the pizza’ becomes ‘The pizza was eaten by the boys’
· ‘The farmer trapped the Jaguar’ becomes ‘The Jaguar was trapped by the farmer’
· ‘I collected the mail’ becomes ‘The mail was collected by me’
· ‘Peter took the TV to the repair shop’ becomes ‘The TV was taken by Peter to the repair shop’
Active voice is more commonly used in everyday conversations. It makes a story more ‘actionable’ and engaging. The passive voice works well when the narrator wants to draw attention to the object. Balancing the usage of the two voices in a story achieves the desired effect on the pace.