Ferreting Out Filter Words

I recently encountered a post on Suzannah Windsor Freeman’s blog, Write It Sideways. It’s about filter words, character POV observations that create an extra layer of perception that distances your reader from what’s happening in your narrative.

The Filtered View

Susan Dennard explains in The Writing Life: “Filters are words or phrases you tack onto the start of sentence that show the world as it is filtered through the main character’s eyes.” For example:

Henry saw the rack of magazines along the back wall of the convenience store.

If you’re telling the story from within Henry’s POV, why announce his perceptions? Filtering creates a view of narrative action like the security camera in the front corner of the store. If you’re telling the story from Henry’s POV, inside his head, move the camera behind his eyes and simply report what he sees:

The rack of magazines stood along the back wall.

Sometimes you want to draw attention to a character’s perception process, and in these cases it’s acceptable to use a filter word. But in most instances, filtering is unnecessary and should be edited out.

Watch out for “realized.” Instead of “She wondered if he was on his way home,” turn the wondering into a question: “Was he on his way home?”

If filtering is an issue for you in your fiction writing, I encourage you to read Suzannah’s and Susan’s original posts, linked above. And check out two more great articles on the subject by Tracie McBride and Leslie.

If you need some editing help, let me know.

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