Okay here is the question.  You have gone through your masterpiece.  You have determined your story does indeed have a plot and that the characters all matter, but something still seems to be missing.  Your story still feels static.  What could be the problem?

“To be” could be the problem.  What is wrong with the verb “to be”?  The issue is the definition.  To be, quite literally, means to exist in a particular state.  Therefore, it is, by its very nature, static.  Often the use of” to be” creates a passive voice even without an additional verb so that your grammar checker may miss it.  Consider the following sentence:

The flowers were yellow.

Okay, thank you for that piece of information.  Where is the motion, the action?  What ability does this sentence have to move your story forward?

Now, let us try this in a different way:

The yellow flowers brightened the room.

By using an active verb, you have created a dynamic sentence that answers the eternal question of “So what?”

For those of you who slept through that particular class in grammar school, “to be” in its various incarnations includes am, are, is, was and were.  Go through your manuscript and highlight every instance of “to be” and apply our mantra: So what?  Apply your answers, where appropriate, and watch your manuscript come alive.

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