Eliminate Filtering from Your Writing
K. Ceres Wright
A visceral reaction. That’s what you want your readers to experience, which means your writing has to be concise, strong, and vivid. What is standing in the way of that are filter words. “What are filter words?” you may ask. Filter words separate the reader from the action through the senses of the character. Read the passage below with the filter words bolded:
Acaya could feel her underwear ride up her crack as the dragon galloped to attain flight, but she was too afraid of letting go to pull it out. She saw the Village of Burgberg zooming toward her, then under, as the dragon took flight and soared over the rooftops. She heard the wind rush past her as they banked left, heading for the battle. Acaya knew they’d be late to the fight, but she realized that they’d be in time to save Meeka, and that seemed to be all that mattered.
Acaya’s underwear rode up her crack as the dragon galloped to attain flight, but she was too afraid of letting go to pull it out. The village of Burgberg zoomed toward her, then under, as the dragon took flight and soared over the rooftops. Wind rushed past her as they banked left, heading for the battle. They’d be late to the fight, but they’d be in time to save Meeka, and that’s all that mattered.
The passage without the filter words is more engaging because the text doesn’t mute the reader’s experience by filtering it through the protagonist. Filter words sneak into your writing, which is fine when you’re writing the first draft, but must be edited out in subsequent drafts. Once you become used to deleting them, it will become easier to not include them even in the first draft.
Which words should you avoid? Here’s a list:
Review your own stories and highlight filter words. Mark them for deletion. Then print out the list and keep it in front of you as you write. You’ll soon begin to recognize filter words not only in your writing, but in others’. Then take your knowledge and pay it forward.