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Self-Editing: Filter Out Those Filter Words!

Filters can be wonderfully useful tools in everyday life. Filters help keep our cars purring, our coffee percolating, and our pools from turning into sludgy sloughs of despond.

But when it comes to writing, filter words can screen out your reader’s connection with your characters.

What are filter words?

Filter words are perception verbs that tell your readers what the point-of-view character is experiencing rather than allowing them to experience events and feelings along with the character. They include such verbs as

  • Realize
  • Notice
  • See
  • Watch
  • Hear
  • Feel
  • Believe
  • Decide
  • Seem

These kinds of words can too often increase narrative, or psychic, distance, adding an unnecessary layer between your readers and the story. They can also lead to repetitiveness and wordiness, which can distract or even bore your readers. Ironically, using filter words can turn sparkling prose into narrative sludge.

Sludgy style:

Anna stumbled outside. Immediately, she could feel the cool evening breeze caressing her bare arms.  As she rubbed them, she watched the moon slipping through the ragged clouds overhead and wondered if a storm were coming. She heard the chirping of innumerable crickets filling the air as though mimicking the party conversation indoors and felt a bitter laugh crawl up her throat. It seemed that even out here she couldn’t be alone.

Find those filters!

Anna stumbled outside. Immediately, she could feel the cool evening breeze caressing her bare arms.  As she rubbed them, she watched the moon slipping through the ragged clouds overhead and wondered if a storm were coming. She heard the chirping of innumerable crickets filling the air as though mimicking the party conversation indoors and felt a bitter laugh crawl up her throat. It seemed that even out here she couldn’t be alone.

Filter free!

Anna stumbled outside. The cool evening breeze caressed her bare arms, and she rubbed them as the moon slipped through the ragged clouds overhead.  Was a storm coming? The chirping of innumerable crickets filled the air as though mimicking the party conversation indoors, and a bitter laugh crawled up her throat. Even out here she couldn’t be alone.

Instantly, your readers will dive deeper into Anna’s mind and emotions and therefore into your story. And isn’t that your goal—to invite your readers into a world you’ve created that’s so present and palpable that they never want to leave?

Filter words do have their place, adding distance or texture when needed. But when it comes to creating immersion and immediacy in story, going filter free is the route to reader connection 🙂 .

 

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