Under the skin

someone’s spooky mask
Photo by mason cook on Pexels.com

Today, in How I Revise a Story(TM), I felt inspired by filter words. Let’s learn about filter words, shall we? To start, here’s an…intentionally styled scene.

***

She saw the shadow block out the sun. “Oh shoot,” she muttered, feeling her heart pound within her.

Daisy heard the creature shriek, feeling the sonic boom to her bones. She realized it’d found her. Scrambling to her feet, she ran through the jungle, arms raised to protect her face, feeling every scratching thorn gouge her forearms.

She wondered how it’d found her. She thought she’d been careful, quiet.

Daisy heard another shriek, this one closer. She glanced up, spotting a huge, feathered bird looming through the bare branches. She ran harder.

***

For those who don’t know, “filter words” are words like “saw” “heard” “thought” or “felt,” where the protagonist “saw something happen” or “wondered about what happened.” Examples are loaded into the scene above. Ie, “feeling her heart pound” or “she wondered how it’d found her.”

They’re called filter words because they (you guessed it) filter the story. They place you outside the fence of the narration, instead of inside it. Rather than the reader reading about an exciting event happening, the reader reads about a character seeing an exciting event happen.

It puts more distance between the reader and the story–which is generally not great if you’re trying to, you know, immerse your reader in the story.

So here’s a scene sans filter words.

***

The shadow blocked out the sun. “Oh shoot,” she muttered, her heart pounding within her.

The creature shrieked, a sonic boom vibrating to Daisy’s bones. It’d found her. Scrambling to her feet, she ran through the jungle, arms raised to protect her face, every scratching thorn gouging her forearms.

How had it found her? She’d been careful, quiet.

Another shriek sounded, this one closer. She glanced up; a huge, feathered bird loomed through the bare branches. She ran harder.

***

Which one was more engaging for you?

For me, the 2nd one irked my writer intuition significantly less. I mean, the line “it’d found her” is ten times more dramatic than “she realized it’d found her.” And we want all the drama in our stories. We want words unfiltered. We want to get under the skin.

We want to immerse our readers, so they feel a story to their bones. And cleaning up filter words helps our stories get deeper, cut closer, and hit more personal.

So yeah I hope this helps you in your efforts to add all the drama to your stories:)

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