May 6, 2013 2 Comments
What is filtering? I consider it a form of ‘telling’; when you tell the reader what the character saw. It’s most prevalent in first and tight third person P.O.V’s and a very common mistake among new writers.
She saw the bird fly past and watched as it landed in a nearby tree.
Take out the filtering and you have this:
The bird flew past and landed in a nearby tree.
The reason it’s annoying is because the reader is already immersed in the character’s POV, and stating that said character is ‘looking’ or ‘hearing’ or what have you, is pointing out the obvious. We now she saw the bird and would watch it, because we’re it’s already established that we’re seeing the world through the character’s eyes.
The first time this was pointed out to me, I was stunned. I’d never heard of it before, and I’d been writing this way for a while. For my critique partner to tell me that I was filtering was new and very unexpected. More importantly, why had no one else mentioned this to me before? I felt so stupid. Here I was, beating readers over the head with obvious prose. I try to watch it now, but I’m sure some slip by. *NOTE* Must tell beta to be on the lookout for future filtering*
Something else about removing this process from your work; it tightens up the prose nicely. It allows for a better description of what is going on.
With but a whisper of sound, the bird flew past and landed in a nearby tree; its colourful feathers a stark contrast to the green of the leaves.
One of the biggest and most often problems new writers have is a large word count. If you’re attempting Trad. Publishing, and have a high word count, you might want to go through your manuscript and check for filtering. Omitting the obvious could help you out.
Here are some other links with more examples.
What about you? Did you filter? What was your reaction when someone told you?