Sunday, 23 October 2011

Filtering

Here's something interesting.

Filtering. For those not in the know, this is when a writer uses sensory devices to describe how a character relates to a description. So, a filtered line might read:

John heard the sound of gunfire.

This is the problem with that line. If the writer has already made it clear that the scene is from John's point of view, then the reader doesn't need to be told that John heard it. They've already been shown it. Telling them  adds a layer of distance between the reader and the story. Never a good thing. Also, take the word sound. Well, obviously it's a sound of gunfire. What else is going to be - especially if we've already mentioned the character heard it? He's not going to hear a smell, is he?

A better line might read:

Gunfire roared across the field. John threw himself to the grass.

OK, not a classic line, but better than the filtered version. At least with the second version, the reader is put into the situation without being distanced from it.

Why do I bring this up, you ask? Well, I've always thought I was pretty good at avoiding filtering. Turns out I'm not as good as I thought I was which has meant some more editing over the last week. Not the end of the world and not the most difficult issues for a writer to fix. And that's what interesting to me. No writer is ever perfect. No writer is ever as good as they're going to be. Or at least, they shouldn't think they are. Otherwise, where's the potential for improving their work? If a writer decides they can't learn and improve, what happens to the most important issue?

Doing what's best for their story.

So I'll work on improving. I'll take my publisher's advice and learn from it. The day I stop doing that is the day I stop doing my best.

2 comments:

  1. You're not alone in this...in fact, I think there's a horde of folks struggling with the same problem. Every time I think I've tricked my brain into not filtering, it's still happening.

    Sometimes I wish I had enough critique buddies so they could each concentrate on checking for just one line of faults! Here, you look for filtering, and you look for weak verbs, and you look for logic gaps, and you look for stupid things, etc.

    I've come to think it isn't possible to avoid. I do think I've become more skilled at catching boo-boos as I go, but I'm not sure I'll ever stop having to edit ten times.

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  2. I'm definitely better at it than I used to be, but like I said, I won't stop doing what's best for my story.

    Luke, boo-boo catcher.

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