Vaguely Passive

It was and there were. Yup I’m going there. Everyone does it. I am aware that I have. Starting a sentence with “It was” or “There were” is passive and… boring.  Chances are if I’ve stuck them in I’ve crippled the creativity of what could have been said.  These should be avoided for obvious reasons they can leave the reader wondering what exactly I meant by ‘it’ or ‘there’.

That can be a problem because if the reader gets bored then they aren’t paying attention. These two sentence starters are often found clinging to cliché phrases that should never be used such as “it was a dark and stormy night.” Blech, it’s been done to death.

So what would make “It was a dark and stormy night.” Better? A better immersive description. Let’s see…

Darkness gave way to the flash that lit up the rivulets of rain on the window.

The only thing louder than the pounding rain on the roof is the barrage of startling Anne.

With her nose pressed against the cool glass; Anne waited for the flash to light up the curtain of rain. 

Now the sentences are no longer passive or vague. It takes the narrative into a better voicing that the reader will enjoy.

So what about “There were” ?  There were plenty of apples. An abundance of vagueness. Assuming there is no option before or after to go into detail I’ll try to fix this one.

Anne’s eyes danced over the lush reds, greens and in between’s of the shiny apples on display.

Anne selected one of each of the ten types of apples from the market stall.

With ten different kinds, Anne selected the granny Smiths to use in her apple pie. 

This is not an exercise for reducing word count, however sometimes making the words count by adding more is more important than worrying about quantity. Taking away the vague allowed me to put a bit more information into the sentence.

Sometimes these are more innocent and less cliché. They just appear in writing because they’re easy to use.

For example: It was sunny today.

What was sunny? We all know sun appears outside but this can be better. Way better.

Anne smiled at her cat rolling in the puddle of sunlight on the floor.

Shielding her eyes as she opened the door; Anne reached for the sunglasses perched on her head.

The clouds parted and Anne lifted her face to the warmth and light that promised a beautiful day ahead.

Writing a sentence in the passive with a vague beginning is definitely something I try to look out for. A quick “search and find” or revision can help track them down in my writing. When I see them I know I’m being lazy and do what I can to make the sentence more valuable.

Here’s a challenge for my lovely followers. Give one, two or all of these a try. Re-write them and see what you come up with and put them in the comments below to share.

It was a dark and stormy night.
There were plenty of apples.
It was a sunny day.

My advice about passive vague sentence starts.
Watch out for them, find them and put them to rest by writing something more interesting.


That escalated quickly

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21 thoughts on “Vaguely Passive

  1. Is anyone up for the challenge?

    Give one, two or all of these a try. Re-write them and see what you come up with and put them in the comments below to share.

    It was a dark and stormy night.
    There were plenty of apples.
    It was a sunny day.


    • It was a dark and stormy night.

      I knew the storm was coming as I watched thick heavy clouds moved swiftly across the sky blocking out all the luminaries above. Sudden pitch black surrounded me and within moments lightening lit the sky and every room in the house. Eerie but beautiful, unnerving but refreshing. I loved storms and this one was spectacular.

      There were plenty of apples.

      How delighted was I at observing the apple tree, blossoms long gone, replaced by apples ruby red, full ripe, enticing too numerous to count.

      It was a sunny day.

      She fought waking, Just a few more minutes she pleaded silently. However when she turned over seeking those extra moments, the brilliant light beaming outside sought her out to play gently across her face warming her cheek. She sighed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It was a dark and stormy night.

    Thunder boomed, and the lights dimmed. The storm above – and the fear of a power outage – seemed to make the air thick and heavy, and Mark found himself pacing nervously in his room.

    There were plenty of apples.

    The apples were stacked high, and the merchant was hovering around the basket, glaring at anyone who threatened to knock his mountain over.

    It was a sunny day.

    Mark wiped the sweat from his forehead. The sun glared at him from behind the black flag – a signal from the medics to stay inside as much as possible. Someone was giving free water bottles on the side of the road from an air conditioned car. Of all the days to have a broken down air conditioner, this certainly wasn’t it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It really is a balancing act, and you’ll know it when it happens and which road to follow. Less is more, but not always. Sometimes, as the examples you’ve given, that little punch gives a complete feeling explaining the situtation resulting in less (no need to explain what they are wearing, it’s hot and sunny, obviously something cool and relaxing) for example. I LOVE this, so well done, Sheryl as always.

    Liked by 1 person

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