Filter Words

There’s more to bad writing than passive verbs and adverbs. There are filter words. These words put distance between the reader and your characters. Instead of being in the story watching things unfold, the reader is far away and only hearing about it. A good analogy of this is someone telling you about a movie they saw instead of you watching the movie yourself.


Like passive verbs (was, were, etc) and adverbs (generally words that end in -ly), filter words are easy to identify.

Here’s an example of common filter words: look and thought.

She looked at the man and thought he was scared.

Rather vague. What did she see?

He burst into the lobby, panting. He chose a dark corner and sank into the shadows.

Now you see him. You’re right there watching him, not watching her watching him.

Here’s a list of common filter words. Search for them in Scrivener or Word by using the “search” feature. I’ll start by naming the five senses because they’re easy to remember. If these are showing up in your draft, you’re telling, not showing.

  • look, saw, see, seen, watch, observe, notice
  • touch, feel, felt
  • hear, heard, sound
  • taste
  • smell

Here are some more and they’re mostly along the lines of your character’s thinking. These words are vague and again, the reader is on the outside.

  • seem
  • appear
  • think, thought
  • believe
  • realize
  • wonder
  • want
  • know, knew
  • understand, understood
  • remember
  • assume
  • decide
  • note

A few more to add to your list.

  • could, would
  • able
  • allow
  • had

The word could is frequently attached to a filter word. She could understand, She could remember, She could smell.

Watch for words had, to, and that. These buggers are frequently, but not always, attached to filter words. She had decided to, She decided to, She decided that. 

Filter words are traps for redundancies. She looked at him as he ran into the lobby. Again, we are watching her watching him. He ran into the lobby gives the same information in less words. It’s immediate and active even though it’s a simple sentence.

This is not a complete list of filter words. I’m not sure one exists because many words can be filter words, but these are the most common offenders. Once you become aware of filter words, you will start noticing them. It takes a bit of thinking to rewrite sentences without using them but you will see the pay off immediately.

Know of more filter words or more ways of spotting them? Add them in the comments!




#deep-pov, #filter-words, #writing-fiction


MWW 2017 ad for Writers Digest.inddMWW 2017 is in just two weeks and I’m totally stoked! If you haven’t heard of Midwest Writers Workshop, you’re in for a treat! Each July it is held on the Ball State Campus in Muncie, Indiana. This is the 44th year! It is three days PACKED with classes for all genres and topics, social activities, social media mentoring, tax info, a Scrivener class, pitch sessions, query critiques, manuscript evaluations, professional headshots. I cannot name it all but if you are a writer or know of a writer in the Midwest, this is the place to be! There will be top-notch editors, agents, and authors there- Jane Friedman (publisher and writing guru), Jessica Stawser (editor for Writer’s Digest magazine and author), and author John Gilstrap. Just to name a few! I’m proud to be a charter member of MWW. Check out the website to learn more!


#amwriting, #jane-friedman, #jessica-strawser, #mww17, #writing, #writing-conferences


9780451496102The novel Lola is about a drug gang in south Los Angeles. The Crenshaw Six is a small operation ran covertly by a chick, Lola, under the pretense that her boyfriend, Garcia, is the leader. Lola is petite, street-smart, and a scrapper. Pimped out by her mother at a young age, she’s grown up in the world of drugs. Her mother is still a junkie, slipping away for days on end, and Lola begrudgingly looks after her. Lola and Garcia are living comfortably in a run-down neighborhood hiding their loot in the floor to avoid the wagging tongues of neighborhood gossip-mongers. When the cartel approaches the Crenshaw Six to intervene in a drug trade among their rivals, things go sour. The drop is a bust. They don’t get the $2 million in cash (because it’s just paper disguised as money) and the $2 million in drugs are snatched up by the rival. So now the Crenshaw Six is in deep to the cartel and it’s Lola’s neck that is on the line. When the rival gang kidnaps her mother, Lola fights with her lack of empathy.

Lola is Melissa Scrivner Love’s debut novel. It will take you deep into the grit of the wrong side of town and the guts it takes to survive. I received this book from Random House for my review.

#debut-novel, #lola, #los-angeles, #melissa-scrivner-love

Just something funny…

I don’t know from where this originated but this has so struck my funny bone…


Patrick Flanery Scores with I Am No One

9781101905876Jeremy O’Keefe is a professor trying to find his place in this world after a failed marriage. He moves abroad for a fresh start but never quite fits in. When he moves back to New York, after a decade of being away, he finds that he doesn’t fit in there either.

I Am No One is a thriller in which the reader can relate to the main character, his attempts to be happy just continually fall short of being realized. Then it begins, voluminous amounts of his own personal information are being dropped off anonymously at Jeremy’s apartment. Boxes. Jeremy has to figure out what he has done to warrant such intense scrutiny before it’s too late.

This book will make you rethink everything about your privacy and just how little you truly have. It will give you a mental workout as you try to decide who Jeremy has crossed to become the subject of such a detailed probe into his everyday life.

Patrick Flanery is also the author of Absolution and Fallen Land. I received this book from Random House for my review.

#i-am-no-one, #patrick-flannery

Writing Voice

writing voice WDI really like to read. Not only fiction, but all things on writing. Ask anyone, especially fellow writer, Delilah Jones Brown. I have nearly every book on writing! I’m a junkie! Some books are okay, some basic, some are outstanding. I just read one of the latter ones. Writing Voice: The Complete Guide to Creating a Presence on the Page and Engaging Readers (Creative Writing Essentials) by Writer’s Digest. I read another book in the series, Creating Characters: The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction (Creative Writing Essentials), and have previously posted on it. I thought that book was a winner as well. The thing I really like about both these books is that the chapters are written by different authors. Everyone learns differently and having all these writers explain writing voice is enjoyable! Some chapters are good, some are amazing! As mentioned several times in this book, understanding voice is elusive. This book really helps you to understand what it is that you are trying to achieve. It’s not as hard as it seems!

It’s more than just voice though, the book also covers POV, tone, style and genres. It explains narrator voice thoroughly. It covers your character’s inner voice: what he thinks is different than what he says. We all have a public face and a private face. So do your characters. There are so many facets to writing effectively. There are plenty of exercises in this book to let you practice what you’re learning too! I have highlighted nearly the whole book and have notes in the margins as I see how these tips relate to certain characters in my own novel.

So you tell me, did you like this post more than prior ones? Did you feel like you knew me as an author a little bit better for it? I followed one of the repeated rules in the book: write fast so your inner voice comes through, not the sterilized, overwritten draft! This book needs to be on your to-read list!

#amwriting, #delilah-jones-brown, #writers-digest, #writing-voice

Herman Koch’s The Dinner is delicious!

The Dinner is the best-selling novel by Herman Koch. The novel is set in a high-end restaurant where two brothers and their wives have gathered to talk about something their teenage boys have done. Something that will set both families off course and into disgrace. The meeting is intense as the whole truth gradually unfolds from the perspective of one of the brothers, Paul Lohman. 

As the five-course meal progresses, complete with complex descriptions of each plate, the layers of secrets are peeled back. There are flash backs as Paul puts together what is happening to his family. He discovers his happiness teeters on a tightrope. He is desperate to save his family and the clock is ticking. Literally.

The Dinner is a fast-paced, complex book that will make you rethink what you thought you knew about yourself. It’s dark, it’s relatable. It’s downright heart-wrenching.

The Dutch novel has been translated into 21 languages. The movie adaption will be released this year starring Richard Gere. Herman Koch is the author of 40 books. I received this book from Random House for this review.

#best-seller, #book-review, #herman-koch, #the-dinner