Monday, August 8, 2016

F Words And Other Writing Mishaps

Few writing rules have ever resonated with me more than this one:

Chop the filter words!

I credit New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard with opening my eyes to filter words, once upon a very long time ago. (FYI, for those who are unfamiliar with Susan, her amazing blog is like an online writer's manual, with tips on writing, revising, queries, synopses. It's crazy how much stuff she covers. ) Filter words are words (often verbs) that distance the reader from the character--in effect, they offer a world filtered through the character's eyes, rather than creating a direct picture for the reader to absorb himself/herself. Without these filter words, our language would be much more immediate and the reader would experience the actions/environment/emotions firsthand, as opposed to getting it second-hand from the character. Think of it this way: a friend tells you how spooky her experience at a haunted house was, OR that same friend walks you through the haunted house so that you can experience it along with her. Which example do you think would scare the pants off you?

Filter words include see, hear, think, touch, wonder, realize, watch, look, seem, feel .....and many, many more. The list is not exhaustive.

For example:

1. Using a filter word: She looked elated, clapping her hands together and squealing in glee.

    Without a filter word: She clapped her hands together and squealed in glee.

2. Using a filter word: The rain seemed to coat his skin until he glistened.

    Without the filter word: Rain coated his skin until he glistened.

3. Using a filter word: I heard thumps coming from the kitchen. I felt pure fright.

    Without the filter word: Thumps echoed in the kitchen. Pure fright washed over me.

As the third example above shows, without using filter words, you often have an opportunity to use more impactful verbs to convey the tone of the scene.

Unless the filter words are critical to the meaning of the sentence, ditch 'em. They more than likely don't add anything to your narrative, and actually wind up preventing your reader from fully connecting with the main character.

For a more in-depth read, click here for Susan Dennard's original post about filter words.

Happy writing!

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