Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Results 1 to 22 of 22

Thread: Question of metaphors and filtering

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Zach Lancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Roof of the World
    Posts
    174

    Question of metaphors and filtering

    After some feedback received on these boards, I think I've gotten a little better at weeding out rookie mistakes like filtering from my text. With my latest story I've run into a bit of a snag, which I hope someone might help me solve. What is your stance on using filtering with visual metaphors? I'll provide the passage from my story that's causing me problems:

    She blew a great cloud of smoke. Franco thought she resembled an elderly dragon, dressed up in the dried-up skins of its prey.


    So the problem I'm having is should I use the "Franco thought" in the above passage, or does it work without? I realize that descriptions of environment are generally better without filtering in close 3rd narration, but I'm worried that in the case of a metaphor the lack of filtering might be confusing.



    I don't mean to accidentally use omniscient 3rd, and I also don't mean that she literally looks like a dragon (the smoke is from tobacco). For all the reader knows, my setting (magical steampunk alternate reality England) might include dragons, so there is some danger of confusion. What do you think?
    "All my life my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name"
    - André Breton

  2. #2
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    5,043
    Use a simile.

    She blew a great cloud of smoke like an elderly dragon, who was dressed in the dried-up skins of its prey.
    Works? I don't know the rest of the context too well, but I just joined everything as one simile.


    Filtering can bug a reader and its practically worthless, but its not evil. Most of the time, you can just remove "the filtering" and the rest makes good sense, you just have to make sure the reader knows what you're talking about and whom you're talking from.

    "He saw Bob walk down the street."
    To:
    "Bob was walking down the street."
    (Filtering was taking the tense here)
    Don't Fear Failure.

    "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn" -- Alvin Toffler.

    "The heights of great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night" -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

  3. #3
    Angel Wing Fetish VoireyLinger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Southern US
    Posts
    1,473
    I think that your your readers are smart enough to process the sentence without thinking she's a real dragon. Leave out the filter phrase.

  4. #4
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    7,634
    I didn't even know there was a thing called 'filtering' until I stumbled across it on these boards last year, and I've edited novels for a living. People will tell you it creates distance from your POV character, and that it's a mistake, and that you should avoid it. I think that's largely a crock and a shibboleth.

    In your example, you're putting the simile in Franco's head. Franco is the author of that simile. It's a character note if you give it to him - an example of the kind of thoughts that he has. If you give it to the narrative voice, I don't really see what you gain.

    If you were writing in 1st, you could avoid saying stuff like "I noticed he had a moustache" in favour of saying "he had a moustache". Simpler is usually better. But what if you want to draw attention to the act of noticing?

    Stop worrying about stuff like this until you can actually identify a problem with your writing.

  5. #5
    Super Procrastinator Kallithrix's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    3,375
    What Torgo said.

    Overuse of filtering can be a distracting tic and often leads to wordiness, clumsy phrasing etc., but because of this people seem to think that any and all use of filtering is inherently bad writing. Like passive voice and adverbs, filtering has it's place. If you're using it consciously and with good reason, go with it. Just ask yourself 'is this the best way to say what I mean?' But to be honest, you should be asking this question of every single sentence you write anyway...
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."








  6. #6
    Twitching ap123's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    In the 212
    Posts
    3,762
    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    In your example, you're putting the simile in Franco's head. Franco is the author of that simile. It's a character note if you give it to him - an example of the kind of thoughts that he has. If you give it to the narrative voice, I don't really see what you gain.
    A very useful bit to keep in mind, thank you.
    Doing the backstroke in the beer moat.

    Try it, you might like it. Blogging life in the big city with Mrs Fringe.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Zach Lancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Roof of the World
    Posts
    174
    Thank you, I think you feedback has helped me to figure out what I was trying to convey with the sentence. I'm going to hold on to the aspect of Franco making the observation, as it's a characterizing moment: he sees the woman, his grandmother, as an old monster. Not sure whether I'll leave the passage as is or make it a part of the MC:s internal monologue, which I also have running at the background. I'll have to experiment. Thanks a bunch!
    "All my life my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name"
    - André Breton

  8. #8
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    With my cats
    Posts
    8,084
    I like it. It works fine for me. It does not look like filtering to me. There is nothing wrong with using "he thought."
    Susan

    Please visit my website: http://www.susanlittlefield.blogspot.com/


  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW benbenberi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    1,217
    What Torgo said.

    It seems to me that the problematic quality of "filtering" is directly related to how deep the narrative sits in a given POV. If you're writing in a deep-penetration mode and the whole narrative is effectively filtered through the POV's thoughts & senses, clearly an extra layer of "filtering" is unnecessary and should be removed. However, if your narrative normally has a shallower penetration and does not have continuous access to the character's direct experience or interior monologue, occasional use of "filtering" devices can be useful.

    Advice on this board, I have observed, tends to privilege deep penetration POV over all others. It's not the only valid approach, merely a stylistic choice.

  10. #10
    υπείκωphobe Wilde_at_heart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Southern Ontario
    Posts
    3,250
    OP, I'd only have 'Franco thought' in there in this particular instance if you want to emphasize that only Franco would get this image in his head. For example, if he was particularly obsessed with dragons and "saw" them everywhere like shapes in Rorschach inkblots.

    If you want to convey that dragon image to the reader as well, then leave it out. I suspect in this case that you do.

  11. #11
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin StephanieK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    16
    I agree that it's fine how you originally have it. Overuse of filitering takes away from the writing, the occasional use of it in the right spot seems fine to me. In the end, that one sentence won't deter an agent or publisher. I would keep it, send it off like that, and see if they ask you to change it.

  12. #12
    I was only joking! Honest! mirandashell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    England
    Posts
    14,341
    The problem with only getting one line is there is no context and no voice. So it's hard for us to say.

    OP, it's your story, it's your voice. If the sentence in the OP conveys what you want it to convey, then keep it.

    Rules are only there to make you think about what you're doing.
    I wish I was a glow worm. A glow worm's never glum. Cos how you can be grumpy when the sun shines out your bum?

  13. #13
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    7,417
    Without the context of the surrounding sentences, it's a little hard to know, but I think it looks OK as it is. You could write it like this--

    She blew a great cloud of smoke. She resembled an elderly dragon, dressed up in the dried-up skins of its prey.


    --but that reads more awkwardly in terms of rhythm.

    Using the occasional "he thought" for clarity or to smooth out a sentence is fine.

    ETA: Will's rewrite is good, too, although I'm going to suggest a slight change of wording--

    She blew a great cloud of smoke, looking like an elderly dragon dressed up in the skins of her prey.

  14. #14
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    7,417
    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post

    In your example, you're putting the simile in Franco's head. Franco is the author of that simile. It's a character note if you give it to him - an example of the kind of thoughts that he has. If you give it to the narrative voice, I don't really see what you gain.
    When writing in close third, the narrative voice is the character voice. You don't need phrases like "he thought" for a statement to represent the POV character's thoughts.

  15. #15
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    7,634
    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    When writing in close third, the narrative voice is the character voice. You don't need phrases like "he thought" for a statement to represent the POV character's thoughts.
    Totally depends what you're doing. Context is everything.

  16. #16
    pretending to be awake onesecondglance's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Berkshire, UK
    Posts
    3,827
    I think this deserves emphasis.

    Quote Originally Posted by mirandashell View Post
    Rules are only there to make you think about what you're doing.
    Λrchangel: near-future SF noir
    Bleed Through: multiverse thriller with a side of vampires. | 33,500 / 100,000 (progress! sweet, sweet progress!)

    I write music. | I gave in and joined twitter. | And I have a blog too.

  17. #17
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    13,378
    Ditto- and despite having commented on the bad side of filtering many times, I don't recall stating or reading anything on this site to the effect that one should never filter.

    It is careless use and overuse that one needs to become aware of - as with everything else.

    Quote Originally Posted by onesecondglance View Post
    I think this deserves emphasis.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  18. #18
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    wisconsin
    Posts
    8,483
    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    When writing in close third, the narrative voice is the character voice. You don't need phrases like "he thought" for a statement to represent the POV character's thoughts.

    this was my thought; reading the line both ways, I feel like "he thought" weakens it as extra wordage. In this case, only slightly, for the reasons listed, but still, for me it did weaken it a bit. It isn't like I read it the first time and assumed it was a literal dragon, the image was forced upon him telepathically, etc...."he thought" was obvious.

    It made the line look like

    "I'm fucking angry!" she shouted angrily, with an angry mad-face.

    redundancies often weaken things, and the OP's example was much less clear-cut than mine, but I definitely felt like it was edging into that direction and would be as good or better without the filter. YMMV, and one line won't sink the book, but a couple dozen of them would make it harder for me to identify. I might not even spot them, in 400 pages, but I think i'd feel the filter as something I couldn't quite call out that felt "off."
    Three words that convey the meaning of six will always look better than twelve...


    a' traveling:
    --April 20th week: Miami
    --April 27th week: Dallas
    --First week of May: Chicago (again)

  19. #19
    Knackered Gary Clarke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Ireland
    Posts
    1,027
    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    I didn't even know there was a thing called 'filtering' until I stumbled across it on these boards last year, and I've edited novels for a living. People will tell you it creates distance from your POV character, and that it's a mistake, and that you should avoid it. I think that's largely a crock and a shibboleth.

    In your example, you're putting the simile in Franco's head. Franco is the author of that simile. It's a character note if you give it to him - an example of the kind of thoughts that he has. If you give it to the narrative voice, I don't really see what you gain.

    If you were writing in 1st, you could avoid saying stuff like "I noticed he had a moustache" in favour of saying "he had a moustache". Simpler is usually better. But what if you want to draw attention to the act of noticing?

    Stop worrying about stuff like this until you can actually identify a problem with your writing.
    This, absolutely this.

  20. #20
    Benefactor Member Roxxsmom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Lost in space. And meaning.
    Posts
    8,251
    Quote Originally Posted by benbenberi View Post
    What Torgo said.

    It seems to me that the problematic quality of "filtering" is directly related to how deep the narrative sits in a given POV. If you're writing in a deep-penetration mode and the whole narrative is effectively filtered through the POV's thoughts & senses, clearly an extra layer of "filtering" is unnecessary and should be removed. However, if your narrative normally has a shallower penetration and does not have continuous access to the character's direct experience or interior monologue, occasional use of "filtering" devices can be useful.

    Advice on this board, I have observed, tends to privilege deep penetration POV over all others. It's not the only valid approach, merely a stylistic choice.
    This. I'm trying to write my novel in a pretty deep limited third pov, so I comb my MS for filtering and try to remove it when I can. But this is because I anchor each scene in a particular character's pov, and once this is established, it should be clear who is perceiving something.

    The reason, I think, many writers are calling out filtering is that it is a form of telling, rather than showing. That deeper style of limited third can draw a reader in and make him or her experience the protagonist's perceptions/thoughts/emotions more directly rather than feeling like he or she is being told about them.

    However, even with a deeper style of limited third, there are times when you need to filter for clarity. The first couple of sentences of a new scene, when you're establishing a character pov may be one place. Another might be when you have a chapter or scene where there's a shift forward in time, or you are quickly summarizing events that take place over several days or weeks.

    And there are those situations where the "noticing something" is actually the verb of choice, because of the context.

    And of course, scenes vary in the degree or type of tension and or action you're trying to portray. If every scene in the novel is an adrenaline fest of pounding heart and sweating palms and terse thoughts, it can become as exhausting and repetitive as a novel where every perception is "told" to the reader.

    If you look at most modern commercial novels written in limited third, you do still see some filtering. You may even see it in situations where it's not needed, per say. It can be a habit, but it can also be a style thing.
    Please excuse me, I was raised by wolves.

    My twitter - My FB - My blog

  21. #21
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    7,417
    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    Totally depends what you're doing. Context is everything.
    Yes, but I just gave the context: close-third POV. That's how it works for close-third. If you're not writing close-third, then other guidelines apply.

    That said...

    But what if you want to draw attention to the act of noticing?
    Sometimes you want to do exactly that.

  22. #22
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    7,634
    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    Yes, but I just gave the context: close-third POV.
    That's not what I mean by context; that's a viewpoint, not the landscape. But I think we agree, basically.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search