Dun Writin’—Now Whut? A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing – (35 Removing Filter Words)

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Removing Filter Words

Filter words are placed between your character and the action. Generally, they are added to a sentence when trying to describe something that your character is experiencing or thinking. While, as usual, there’s a place for them in writing, you can tighten up your scenes immensely when they’re removed. It’s another tidbit for helping you show, rather than tell, as without the filter words, you’re forced to add more description to get what you mean across.

What are some filter words? Felt, realized, saw, wondered, seemed, decided, heard, knew, touched, watched, and can are some of the more common ones. You can search the Internet for other lists of filtering words. Cutting away your filtering words and forcing yourself to write without them results in more vivid scenes.

Here are some sentence examples of filter words:

  • She remembered him kissing her at their wedding.

  • She felt relieved when he broke their date.

  • I heard a noise in the basement.

  • I tasted the morning’s coffee—bitter, as usual.

  • It seemed the only way to win was to punt.

  • He knew she was going to turn left.

Now how about a whole bunch of filter words together? Let’s imagine your character is running after from a purse snatcher. Here’s the scene:

  • Rhonda wondered how she would ever catch the man. She heard his footfalls pulling away from her, realizing that he was going to get away. She knew the check from her grandmother was in her purse, and decided she would stop chasing him and call the police. It seemed the best decision at the time, even though she felt disappointed in herself and her running abilities.

Aside from the fact that it’s not very good writing, it sounds fine, doesn’t it? Here is the same scene with the filter words removed:

  • How could she ever catch the man? His footfalls pulled away from her—he was going to get away. The check from her grandmother was in her purse; Rhonda couldn’t risk losing it. Slowing, she pulled her phone out of her back pocket to call the police. It was the best decision. Why couldn’t she have run faster?

This self-editing tip is not something that most editors would watch for in material they were editing, unless it was developmental editing. Why not? Because it requires rewriting and a subsequent resubmission. If you have hired an editor to help you improve your writing (developmental editing), then it will be something to work on. But you can improve your own writing without an editor’s help by using this tip.

We’re Dun for today, so keep on Writin’!

Susan

Susan Uttendorfsky

Owner, Adirondack Editing

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25 thoughts on “Dun Writin’—Now Whut? A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing – (35 Removing Filter Words)

  1. The problem, I think, arises when we—as authors—fail to realize that our goal is not to explain our visions to the readers. We fail when what we write becomes, at best, our interpretations of what we ‘see.’ We explain the readers what we understood when our mind witnesses the story as it unfolds.

    In general, this means that the writer does not describe the scene and attributes the sensations he receives to the characters. That’s our personal filter.

    The scene is gruesome and horrific in our mind? “He stared at the wounded arm and was filled with horror and sadness.”

    Instead, what we want to achieve is to have the readers ‘see’ through our eyes and have their own sensations triggered by the scene.

    “The medic applied a tourniquet to what remained of the man’s bloody left arm. Part of his body continued to melt as the pyrolytic effect of Kritas’s guns decomposed his tissues. An oily mixture of organic material, fabric, and metal gathered into a smelly puddle; I felt his heart tremble with its last spasms, and I shuddered when his life vanished like a fading flame.” (Once Humans, Vol.2 of the Daimones Trilogy)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great writing suggestion, Susan. Sometimes the show is already there but there’s a veil that increases the distance between the reader and the action. Those “felt, realized, saw, wondered, seemed, decided, heard, knew, touched, watched” are all thinly disguised veils.

    Liked by 1 person

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