Trolls Seizing Power
Getting those pesky trolls to release Marianne is essential. She wants to
return to her jog. They want to control the sentence.
In the previous post “Pesky Trolls Return”, we highlighted two ways that subjects leave the work of the sentence to something else. They cede a little of their power away to modifiers and questions.
To take power completely away from the subject, we have to give the power to the trolls of writing.
Active vs. Passive Subjects
When the Act-er of the sentence is in the subject position, the Act-er keeps his power. Writers want active subjects. Usually.
Occasionally, we want the Act-er to be lose power. Look at these two sentences:
- The trolls seized Marianne.
- Marianne was seized by the trolls.
The first example is Active Voice. The trolls do the action; they are in the dominant position of the sentence.
In the second example, our focus is Marianne, our protagonist. The trolls get shoved to the back seat of the sentence (becoming the object of the preposition by).
This is Passive Voice. The trolls have lost power.
Pretty much anytime your Act-er follows the preposition by, you have created impotence and futility.
- Bilbo outwitted Golem >> Golem was outwitted by Bilbo.
- Hannibal invaded the Roman Empire >> The Roman Empire was invaded by Hannibal.
What about this sentence? Hannibal invaded the Roman Empire by using elephants.
Who is the Act-er? Hannibal, not the elephants. Hannibal remains in the active position and loses no power.
In the post “Whereby a Fly Inserts itself into your Expensive Dinner”, I discussed the expletives there and here. (Check the Archive!)
Not every t/here is an expletive; in the alternative use t/here serves as a placement adverb: The accountant is over there, behind the fern. He’s hiding from the trolls, who took Marianne.
Shakespeare’s Brutus says, “There is a tide in the affairs of men / which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” This is a pure expletive: A tide in the affairs of men . . . leads on to fortune.”
I had a professor who called these expletives “Do-Nothings”. They are mere placeholders who thrust the subject into impotence.
When we remove them, we immediately punch up our writing.
- There is no sense to her words. >> Her words are senseless.
- There are no hiding places from trolls. >> We cannot hide from trolls.
- Here are giants. >>
Ah, the last one’s not so easy, for this is a placement adverb, not an expletive. Purge it, however.
- Here are giants. >> Giants stood among the trees, peeking over the canopies, waiting in ambush for the trolls.
For the giants will free Marianne.