A Few Easy Strategies to Remove Those Pesky Filter Words that Fog Up Your Writing

Have you ever been watching a sport’s game from seats that didn’t give you a good view of the action? Or perhaps your seat was behind a lady wearing a purple, floofy hat that almost touched you every time she shifted. Talk about annoying. Neither of these make for good experiences. Too much distance and/or a lack of clear view can be major problems for fiction writers as well.

The best scenes plunge the reader into the story to experience the same adventure as the characters who light the page. There are many mistakes writers can make that rip the reader from the narrative or create distance between the reader and the character’s point of view. One of those mistakes is manifest in filter words (See list below).

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If you’ve been writing for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard the words “Show, don’t tell”. Filter words are great indicators of telling instead of showing. Once you become good at recognizing filter words, you will notice how they put distance between the reader and the character’s point of view. If you have a lot of these in your writing, you can easily clean them up by using some of the tips I’ve listed on the page below.

These tips will hopefully be helpful to remove any filters that exist and to bring your reader in closer into the scene.

1. Look to delete the filter word. You can’t just go willy-nilly through your manuscript deleting anytime you see the word “assumed” or “believed”. If you do so, you’ll likely be left with a lot of confusing sentences. Sometimes however this does work. If you can simply delete the word because everything else is implied, do so.

Here are some examples:

With Filter: Mark noted the twisted vines that covered the castle gardener’s door. She heard someone pounding on the door downstairs.

 

I know I need to get out of here before she comes back.

 

Without Filter: Twisted vines covered the castle gardener’s door.

 

Someone pounded on the door downstairs.

 

I need to get out here before she comes back.

 


2 .
Look to reword your sentence so that your reader doesn’t have to look through a filter. Sometimes you can pull filter words out simply by choosing different words that do a better job of delving the reader into the scene.

Here are some examples:

With Filter: I looked out the window and saw the neighbor boys fighting.

 

Janie looked through her bag until she found her cigarettes.

 

I look for Elsa, but can’t see her anywhere.

 

Without Filter: Outside my window, the neighbor boys were fighting. Janie rifled through her bag for her cigarettes.

 

I can’t find Elsa anywhere.

 

3. Imply your filter words using distinct description. Don’t waste words telling the reader that the character looks/hears/feels etc. when you can imply those actions through vibrant description.

Here are some examples:

With Filter: I looked out the window and saw the neighbor boys fighting.
Janie looked through her bag until she found her cigarettes.

 

I look for Elsa, but can’t see her anywhere.

 

Without Filter + Description: Outside my window, the neighbor boy punched another kid in the face and sent him sprawling onto the pavement. Janie rifled past tubes of lipstick, eyeliner, and old walmart receipts until her hand brushed the cardboard of her cigarette box. I can’t find Elsa in the mass of tiny bodies who press up against the carriage wheels.

 

 

With Filter: I knew she was mad.

 

Lars watches as the iron door comes down above them.

 

Without Filter + Description: She crumpled my note and stalked off.

 

The door slams shut plunging the room into darkness.

 


4. Use Direct/Indirect thoughts to remove your filters.
Don’t waste words telling the reader that the character thinks/wonders/believes etc. Imply that the character is thinking by sharing the character’s thoughts.

Here are some examples:

With Filter: She could not believe what Sam had just told her.

 

I thought about how I was going to tell him the truth about me and Frank. Siri wondered if they would ever get rid of the curse.

 

Without Filter: Sam couldn’t be serious.

 

I needed to tell him the truth about me and Frank. Maybe I could just text him about it. Would they ever get rid of the curse?

 

 

With Filter: I was hoping Hank would leave the party through the other exit. Xena assumed Ortega would want his sword back.
Without Filter: Maybe Hank would leave the party through the other exit. And of course, Ortega would want his sword back.

5. Some filter words are necessary. As with all rules, there are exceptions. Some filter words are necessary for context and meaning. And just like adverbs, there will be some filter words you’ll just refuse to give up. That’s okay. I haven’t read too many writers who don’t break any rules.

Don_t tell your reader about your main character experiencing a scene. Invite your reader along for the adventure, to experience the scene along with your cast.

Any thoughts or strategies on filter words? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Did you enjoy? – Any likes make me smile 🙂 and any shares make my day ❤ .

If you liked this post, you might also like this post with writing tips as well – 6 Tips to Write Your Novel in the Vibrant Way Your Brain Imagined It


6 thoughts on “A Few Easy Strategies to Remove Those Pesky Filter Words that Fog Up Your Writing

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