Jan 16, 2010


Ignore the fact that I've completely missed Tuesday. Saturday is like Tuesday in many ways.

Something that comes up in nearly every self-published book I edit and review is the overuse of filtering perceptions through a character. So, you want to say that the sky is blue, and instead of saying "The sky was blue that day," you say "Jim noticed that the sky was blue that day."

Check this out when you've got any kind of sensory information coming in - do you need to say that John saw the deer cross the street, or Andy smelled the salty sea air? Sometimes this is nice, but very, very often it's just adding both extra words and an extra layer of separation for the reader between themselves and the observations in question. Compare...
John descended into the cellar, his body trembling with fear. A gust of moldy air blew past him as he opened the door, and something creaked in the darkness.
John noticed that his body was trembling with fear as he descended into the cellar. As he opened the door, he felt a gust of moldy air blow past him, and heard something creak in the darkness.

At best, it just doesn't add anything but extra words. At worst, it's awful - it reminds the reader at every step that this is happening to John and they aren't there. You know how with the best books you always say "I was just sucked into the world the author created, and I could feel everything like it was happening to me" ? Filtering is a great way to make sure your readers don't have that experience.

A quick fix: Do a search for "notice/note." If you're feeling ambitious, also search for variants of the other sensory words - feel, smell, hear, see, taste. But "notice" will catch the most obvious ones.

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