Filtering in Fiction

How many of us do this? I do. I don’t like it, but at least I know that is something I need to work on. Does everyone know what it means?

The most basic form of a filter is when the writer tells the reader that a characters sees, hears, smells, feels (as in the sense of touch), or tastes something. A related, and slightly more nuanced filter, is when the writer tells the reader that a character notices, realizes, recognizes, or feels (as in an emotion) something.

So once you know that you are doing it, how hard is it to correct it? Hopefully not hard at all. I am guessing that once the problem is known, we watch for it, we are more aware, right? I just figured it out tonight, so I am not sure yet. But I am hoping when I get a chance to write again I will be picking up on it.

Have any of you ever been told that you are filtering too much? I would love to hear comments about it!!

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13 thoughts on “Filtering in Fiction

  1. I was actually told that I didn’t filter enough in a writer’s workshop. I never let the reader in on my characters’ thoughts or awareness of their situation. I was told that not filtering made a barrier that hampered the connectivity of my characters. The solution was for me to ‘show more’ in my narratives. I think mentioning what a character notices through their senses does bring a necessary dimension to help bring the reader into the world, but it shouldn’t be overused.

    • I don’t think I need to worry about overuse. When my chapter was critiqued and that was pointed out to me, I realized just how often I do that. And it really stinks because it removes the reader from the story. I guess there is a fine line, and I will be practicing so I don’t fall off. :-) Thank you!!

      • I think it depends on the story and how it’s done. I use sensory phrases and filters a lot in my stories because it is a fantasy story with action. My main hero is a tracker, so what he senses is very important. I’ve had to develop a fluid way of including this into the narration and dialogue. Such as “he says while his eyes focus on a glint of metal in the trees.”

        One thing I’ve noticed about readers is that there is a difference in mentality when you read for joy and read for critique. One of my friends only reads my stories for fun and he loves the use of filters because he says it reads like a movie. A friend of mine who typically reads to critique always complains about some of the words I use and the ‘noble’ way I write with few contractions in the narration parts. It’s personal taste that is altered by focus. This isn’t to say critics are bad, but an artist of any kind can only let critiques change them so much before they lose their personality.

  2. I like to use them on purpose. I mean this in a good way. I have my characters notice, taste and feel things that many would not even think of using those filters with. In the novel I am working on now, I had one of the victims taste the evil that was on the breeze. I try to find other ways of saying things. Since I live in the wide open spaces of South Dakota, we talk about tasting the wind, or feeling eyes crawling up our backs when in the wilderness or noticing the color of the wind. I can see where they can be over used; so I try to find another way of saying something that can give the reader a picture in their mind.

  3. You all make great points but when I went back and read what I had written, it did make sense. I also wrote a lot in exposition instead of dialog. I am hoping these are rookie mistakes and does not mean that I am a horrible writer.

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