Filter words. I think they’re one of my biggest pet peeves when editing other people’s work. Turns out, they’re also my kryptonite. When I started editing my YA WIP, I couldn’t believe how many I saw had slipped their way into my ms. I looked at them cluttering up my draft like spider webs in an unused room. I felt sick. I’d heard writing experts advise against them so many times, and yet here I was using them.
Okay, now let’s try that again without them:
Filter words. They’re one of my biggest pet peeves when editing other people’s work. Turns out, they’re also my kryptonite. When I started editing my YA WIP, the number of them that had slipped their way into my ms amazed me. They cluttered up my draft like spider webs in an unused room. They sickened me. Writing experts always advise against them, and yet here I was using them.
Those sneaky little words: saw, heard, watched, knew, felt, believed, etc, they all get between the reader and the action, “filtering” it through the character’s view, and inflating your word count. Even worse, in a first person POV they add an extra “I” – which is the last thing you want.
So how do you fix it? For the most part, all it takes is removing the filter words (and their subject) and turning the object of the sentence (whatever your character was seeing, hearing, watching, etc) into the subject.
For instance, “I heard the door slam, and I knew mom was finally home” becomes “The door slammed. Mom was finally home.” See how much more immediate that is? You’re inside your character’s head, hearing what they hear, knowing what they know.
I bet some of you are thinking, “But what if the character seeing or hearing something is the action? For instance, if they’re seeing something shocking, or eavesdropping?” It’s okay to use these words occasionally, especially if you want to emphasize their action – which is why you need to remove all the extraneous uses, so that when you do use them, they stand out.
What about you? Do you find yourself using filter words? Or have you managed to scrub them completely from you writing? Let me know in the comments.