Guest Blogger Robin Martin –

Eliminating Needless Filters in your Writing
A difficult concept to grasp, second only to narrative point of view, may be filtering.
I never felt connected with any character in my client Jack’s* manuscript. The protagonist was being held at a distance through the language the amateur writer had put on the page.
Two things were possible: Either the author was afraid of what he might find out about himself in this protagonist he had created, so he wasn’t being completely honest with him taking him where he needed to go, or it was an excessive use of filters. Or, of course, it could be both.
One kind of filter distances the reader by putting too many words between the reader and what the character is experiencing. In Burroway’s Writing Fiction, she uses John Gardner’s example from his The Art of Fiction.
…the needless filtering of the image through some observing consciousness [is a failure]. The amateur writes: ‘Turning, she noticed two snakes fighting in among the rocks.’ Compare: ‘She turned. In among the rocks, two snakes were fighting…’ Generally speaking–though no laws are absolute in fiction–vividness urges that almost every occurrence of such phrases as ‘she noticed’ and ‘she saw’ be suppressed in favor of direct presentation of the thing seen.
This is a way to do that showing and not telling thing you’ve heard so much about. If you remove the filters, you are allowed to stay in the consciousness of the character.
Readers are clever enough to understand when a flashback is occurring without reading that someone “thought back” or “remembered clearly” or “recalled.”
Burroway gives us the language to understand that, in revision, the pace is improved by removing filters. And the length is improved as well.
Robin is a professional writer and editor.

One Comment:

  1. Very helpful post. Thank you!

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