Some filters are good, but those used in writing can weaken the story. Filtered words stop or rather separate the reader from experiencing the action in the story. When observations are filtered through the narrator’s voice something gets lost. The action isn’t as clear as it could be or as immediate as it should be. Imagine what gets lost when someone is talking underwater. Okay, humor me. That’s probably not the example to use, but this action would still be delayed and confusing, so it has to be somewhat similar, right?
The way to avoid this is to watch for words like: to see, to hear, to watch, to touch, to wonder, to realize, seem/seemed, felt/feel, know/knew, sounds like, notice, remember. This is something I’m learning to look for as I edit. It’s easy to write with these filters standing in the way.
Example: Mike felt sick as he walked up to the corner where there had been an accident. He didn’t see it happen, but he saw the man slumped over the steering wheel. He heard the moans and groans as the first responder asked the man questions. He wondered what he could do to help. Did he even ask? Others already helped. Time seemed to stand still until the ambulance arrived.
Removing filters: Mike’s stomach churned. He didn’t see the accident happen, but that didn’t matter. The man in the car slumped over the steering wheel. His moans and groans pierced through the air as the first responder asked questions. Could Mike do anything to help? Did he ask? Others already helped. Time stood still until the ambulance arrived.
To pull the reader into the fictional world of the characters, authors have to provide events and circumstances that make the reader care. The way to do that is by bringing the reader into the fictional world with the characters so they also experience it. Tricky, yes. But there are tips to help. Removing filters is one way.
Are there filters in real life that separate us from having a closer relationship with those around us? One is not looking others in the eyes. Another big one is time. We must spend time together to help us care and empathize with others.
Hopefully we can all learn to get rid of those bad filters that stand in the way of connecting with each other on paper and in real life.