NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Stop pushing me away...


Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

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TODAY'S POST: Stop pushing me away—or avoiding filtering in your fiction

Many moons ago, when I began to learn my craft and write seriously, a writing friend critiqued one of my novels and said I was “filtering.”

I had no idea what she was talking about.

Filtering, I finally figured out, refers to when a writer pulls the reader out of the character’s tight point of view. Instead of experiencing the story with the character, i.e., through her eyes, filtering adds a layer between the reader and what’s happening in the story. Here’s an example:

With filtering:

She could see that her reflection, though a little distorted, was still pleasingly curvaceous.

Without filtering:
Her reflection, though a little distorted, was still pleasingly curvaceous.

In the example with the filtering, the reader is standing next to the character, watching the character notice her reflection. The words “she could see that” are completely unnecessary, since we’re in the character’s point of view.

In the second example, without filtering, the reader is in the character’s head, seeing what she sees as she sees it. It’s a tight point of view, with no added distance between the character and the reader. No added words to keep the reader from experiencing the action/thought directly.

Filtering is closely related to “show, don’t tell”—or rather, “tell, don’t show,” which is what filtering does.

Let’s try another example:

With filtering:
He didn’t seem to have changed at all in ten years. He still looked long and lean, broad-shouldered and narrow hipped. She saw that he still wore his jeans like he was about to stride onto the set of a western movie. He wore a black leather jacket open over a white crew-necked sweater. His sandy hair looked thick and wavy and he still smelled like sin.

She saw that his blue eyes—oh, those terrible eyes—still looked at her in disappointment.

Without filtering:
He hadn’t changed at all in ten years. He was still long and lean, broad-shouldered and narrow hipped. He still wore his jeans like he was about to stride onto the set of a western movie. He wore a black leather jacket open over a white crew-necked sweater. His sandy hair was still thick and wavy and he still smelled like sin.

And his blue eyes—oh, those terrible eyes—still looked at her in disappointment.

The filtered example is exaggerated for effect. It took me a while to see what my friend was talking about when she said that I was filtering. Once I understood, I saw it everywhere in my writing and had to train myself out of the habit. I still catch myself at it sometimes.

You want to grab the reader, hold her close, and not let her go until you’re finished with her. And for that, you have to get rid of those filter words. They’re like holding your reader at arms’ length.

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FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!


6 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

Great post, Marcelle! I hadn't heard the term "filtering" but am happy to have a name for this. I was trying to explain it to another writer recently. Great examples, too!

jean harrington said...

Marcelle, this post is a gem of writer's advice. Understanding the difference between show and tell is one of the greatest challenges a fledgling--and maybe not so fledgling!--author faces. Your illustrations show the difference to perfection.

Marcelle Dubé said...

Thanks, Anne Marie and Jean. :-)

Toni Anderson said...

Awesome reminder!

Sandy Parks said...

I hadn't heard the term filtering used before, but it fits. A good reminder, too. I'm going through a manuscript now and will add filtering to my clean-up list.

Clare London said...

Omg yes, I do that! And it's blatanty obvious from your explanation how it distances the reader from the characters. Thanks for that timely reminder :)

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