Getting rid of filter words

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‘Show. Don’t tell.’ Every writer has heard this mantra. I hadn’t, though, heard of filter words till recently. Filter words are verbs that take the reader one step away from experiencing life as your POV character. Leah Wohl-Pollack of Invisible Ink Editing gives this list:

  • to see
  • to hear
  • to think
  • to touch
  • to wonder
  • to realize
  • to watch
  • to look
  • to seem
  • to feel (or feel like)
  • can/could/couldn’t
  • to decide
  • to know
  • to sound like
  • to notice
  • to be able to
  • to note
  • to experience
  • to remember

I’ve been through my draft evaluating each filter word as I find it. Here’s one passage before the changes:

She felt torn between railing at him for his arrogance and blurting out how uncomfortable she was with the constant prickly awareness he induced in her. Silence seemed safe. She said nothing as he coaxed the horses onto the bridge, then turned to pass the mill.

This became:

Should she rail at him for his arrogance? Blurt out how uncomfortable he made her? She was constantly aware of him; every nerve ending on edge and a strange hollow warmth in the pit of her stomach. Silence seemed safer. She kept her eyes turned away from on his strong hands as he coaxed the horses onto the bridge, then turned to pass the mill.

It’s a great tip. For more, just google ‘filter words’.


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