Filtering is a Four Letter Word

Interestingly, this has been something that has been a pet peeve of mine for some time, though I never had a good word for it. Mostly I just called it ‘distancing’ or ‘telling, not showing’.

But this blog came up on my feed recently, and I finally found the vocabulary to describe that which I hate:

Filter Words.

You know what they are: they’re those little words and constructions that remind the reader that they’re reading – and thus throws them right out of the story.

Words and constructions like:

  • to see
  • to hear
  • to think
  • to touch
  • to wonder
  • to realize
  • to watch
  • to look
  • to seem
  • to feel (or feel like)
  • can
  • to decide
  • to sound (or sound like)
  • to notice
  • to be able to
  • to note
  • to experience

I see them all the time in submissions that come in, and not only do they distance the reader from the story, they also affect your pacing and your narrative flow. They can mean the difference between a polished, pacy chapter and one that doesn’t lift off the page, and what’s worse is you may not even have known they were there!

Witness:

He felt the rain on his skin, the cold seemingly seeping into his very bones.

vs.

The rain hit his skin, the cold seeping through to his very bones.

There are actually a fair few blogs that have addressed this issue, so if you think this may be affecting your writing, they have great tips for finding them, avoiding them, and never filtering again*.

Fiction University

Pub Crawl

Scribophile

Invisible Ink

*Instagram excluded

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