In my fabulous book, it mentions the Seven Deadly Sins Of Screenwriting. The first sin is the verb “to be.” In basically any form, it weakens your writing. My fifth grade English teacher, Mrs. Hale, told me about “using active verbs” but that didn’t make as much sense to me as “get rid of ‘to be.'” Easier to understand.
First of all, it’s boring.
“She is walking” transmogrifies into “She walks…” Pretty simple stuff.
However, you can also use your hunt to exorcise “to be” from your writing as a way to make your writing a bit… zippier…
Take this sentence.
When five armed men drag her from a café into a beat-up military vehicle, Travis must rise to the occasion.
Not the best sentence. Not, surely, the worst. But here is the FIRST version, using the dreaded “to be”… and it’s bland, not as interesting, and far less specific and compelling… and I only made it better by knowing I had to get rid of “to be.”
When she is dragged from a café into a beat-up military vehicle, Travis must rise to the occasion.
Going after “to be” to just make the sentence more active, ended up making the sentence far better. Tedious, hell yes, but that’s why you come to my website, right!?