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Old 02-05-2013, 01:46 AM   #1
RedRam
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Filtering and limited view

I'm working on cutting down the amount of filtering that I write - yay - but having a hard time with my current scene - boo.

My MC is hiding in a cart, which is rolling around. I've made it clear that see can see glimpses out of a crack in the side, and one in the floor of the cart. So she's seeing the road, trees, etc. But I've gotten to a point where I want to say, "Outside, she could just make out the wall of a wooden building."

I know filtering is to be avoided, but isn't the end of the world. Is it okay to filter in this instance?
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:57 AM   #2
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I don’t really have a problem with the sentence you provided, but is there any reason why you can’t just say, “The wall of a wooden building was barely visible through the cracks”?
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:58 AM   #3
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No. No there's not. That's a much better phrasing. Thank you.
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:59 AM   #4
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Like adverbs etc, filtering isn't to be avoided at all costs, even making a sentence so convoluted it's silly, or you take ten times the words to say what one short filtering sentence can do for you. Sometimes it's the best way to convey what you want to convey, or it works for rhythm or pacing etc.

Now, that said, there are other ways you could render that sentence (A wall loomed out of the darkness beside the cart...yes it's crap, but you get the idea - if you've established she's peeking out of gaps, the outside becomes redundant. ) but without knowing the sentences around it, it's impossible to say what's needed. 'She could just make out' could be fine.
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:04 AM   #5
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That's not filtering, but in my book its weak description. You're not describing what she's seeing, but what she's not seeing in a way that's non-descriptive. Also, using "outside" would mean that's she's outside, acting, not what is outside.

"She looked through the crack in the side. Outside, stood a wooden building partially hidden behind a thicket."
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:20 AM   #6
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Sorry about the weakness. I hadn't written the actual sentence yet, as I'd gotten hung up on the filtering thing.
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:29 AM   #7
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I don’t really have a problem with the sentence you provided, but is there any reason why you can’t just say, “The wall of a wooden building was barely visible through the cracks”?
Or: The wall of a wooden building appeared through the crack?

I struggle with this sometimes too, and I agree that sometimes a little filtering is preferable to tying yourself in knots trying to avoid it completely.

And recently, I've had a reader comment that those unfiltered statements don't always make it clear to him whose pov the scene is in (he's not saying I should use filters constantly but that one here and there wouldn't be amiss as a reminder).

I do tend to use some filtering at the beginning of a scene to make it clear when the pov has changed from a previous scene, and don't head hop (each scene is anchored in one character's pov). But some readers still want/need more frequent "reminders" of whose eyes are seeing those unfiltered, direct observations. I write fantasy, and many modern fantasy writers still use a LOT of filtering, even when they are clearly in limited third. So it may be that many fantasy readers are still used to a lot of filtering and find it odd when it's almost completely absent?

But the expectation of your target audience may have to drive how much and how often you need to use it.
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:54 PM   #8
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The highlighting below is mine.

What are you on about?

Why on earth should anyone tie themselves in knots trying to avoid filtering? It isn't something to be avoided like the plague. It's simply something - like many other issues - to be aware of so it isn't badly used or overused or unnecessarily used as a lazy or ignorant crutch instead of focussing on strengthening the POV.

If your readers are confused re POV it's your fault for not establishing and maintaining a clear POV.


Quote:
=Roxxsmom;7933970]Or: The wall of a wooden building appeared through the crack?

I struggle with this sometimes too, and I agree that sometimes a little filtering is preferable to tying yourself in knots trying to avoid it completely.

And recently, I've had a reader comment that those unfiltered statements don't always make it clear to him whose pov the scene is in (he's not saying I should use filters constantly but that one here and there wouldn't be amiss as a reminder).

I do tend to use some filtering at the beginning of a scene to make it clear when the pov has changed from a previous scene, and don't head hop (each scene is anchored in one character's pov). But some readers still want/need more frequent "reminders" of whose eyes are seeing those unfiltered, direct observations. I write fantasy, and many modern fantasy writers still use a LOT of filtering, even when they are clearly in limited third. So it may be that many fantasy readers are still used to a lot of filtering and find it odd when it's almost completely absent?

But the expectation of your target audience may have to drive how much and how often you need to use it.
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:03 PM   #9
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Yes, of course it is.

The easiest way to cut down on excessive filtering in third person limited POV is to strengthen the POV by getting inside that camera on the POV character's shoulder and reporting what can be seen and experienced through the lens - not constantly reporting the POV character can see and hear or whatever, such and such.

If I know whose POV I am supposed to be in then if something is described I know it can be seen by the POV character because that's the only way it can be included in the narration -if the POV character can see it, hear it, feel it...etc..

Good luck.



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Originally Posted by RedRam View Post
I'm working on cutting down the amount of filtering that I write - yay - but having a hard time with my current scene - boo.

My MC is hiding in a cart, which is rolling around. I've made it clear that see can see glimpses out of a crack in the side, and one in the floor of the cart. So she's seeing the road, trees, etc. But I've gotten to a point where I want to say, "Outside, she could just make out the wall of a wooden building."

I know filtering is to be avoided, but isn't the end of the world. Is it okay to filter in this instance?
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:23 PM   #10
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No, filtering is not inherently bad writing. Nor is passive voice, or using adverbs, or participal phrases, or telling. They are all tools in the writers toolbox that you should learn how to use to best effect and for the appropriate purpose.

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Old 02-05-2013, 11:42 PM   #11
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The highlighting below is mine.

What are you on about?

Why on earth should anyone tie themselves in knots trying to avoid filtering? It isn't something to be avoided like the plague. It's simply something - like many other issues - to be aware of so it isn't badly used or overused or unnecessarily used as a lazy or ignorant crutch instead of focussing on strengthening the POV.

If your readers are confused re POV it's your fault for not establishing and maintaining a clear POV.


I have a books that's all about deep pov, and they seem to feel you should avoid filtering as much as possible if you're going for this feel, especially in action heavy and emotionally intense passages. The idea is that the filters come between the reader and the character's perceptions and remind them that they're reading.

One thing this book doesn't provide are examples of entire scenes written in this pov, or examples of how to interface and transition between a portion of a scene or chapter that needs filtering and one that doesn't. It has lots of examples of how to rewrite filtered sentences or short paragraphs in a non filtered way, which is nice, but it's weak on fitting it all into a larger context or recognizing when you may need to employ a little judicious filtering.

As for the passage in question, only one reader has mentioned having trouble with the pov thus far, and I really, really, really don't think I'm head hopping at all or showing things the pov character wouldn't see or feel or think.

I just used the experience as a means of pointing out that past reader experience and expectations will drive their perceptions re how much filtering is enough versus too much, and it's probably not possible to please everyone. Some readers WANT you to say, "Bob realized that..." rather than simply saying what he realized without the filter.

I do agree that there are lots of ways to approach these things and that no "tool" is wrong to use all the time or in all situations, which I was trying to say when I said don't tie yourself in knots avoiding it. I guess I should have said, "Even if you are going for the very deep or immersive limited third pov that is often advocated..." I assumed this person was, since he/she was concerned about it.
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Old 02-06-2013, 01:08 AM   #12
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No, filtering is not inherently bad writing. Nor is passive voice, or using adverbs, or participal phrases, or telling. They are all tools in the writers toolbox that you should learn how to use to best effect and for the appropriate purpose.

Don't use a hammer when a screwdriver is needed, and visa versa.
Exactly. But I think some people see comments by other posters with absolutes along the lines of "'good writing' never includes passive phrases" or '"if I see 'felt' or 'could' I throw the book across the room" and less experienced writers take them far too seriously.

The key is for it to be deliberate rather than habit.
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Old 02-06-2013, 02:29 AM   #13
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And recently, I've had a reader comment that those unfiltered statements don't always make it clear to him whose pov the scene is in (he's not saying I should use filters constantly but that one here and there wouldn't be amiss as a reminder).
I have to admit, this is something I don't understand at all, although it isn't the first time I've run into it. I recall a critiquer once telling me that in order to stay in POV, I had to constantly write stuff like he heard, she felt, he saw, she thought, etc. Otherwise the reader wouldn't remember whose POV it was.

That is utter nonsense to me. Make clear the POV at the beginning of a scene, and then assume your reader is intelligent enough to keep up.
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Old 02-06-2013, 02:40 AM   #14
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That is utter nonsense to me. Make clear the POV at the beginning of a scene, and then assume your reader is intelligent enough to keep up.
Exactly what I was thinking - you don't need to filter to establish POV. Once it's established, use it when you need to.

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Old 02-06-2013, 03:04 AM   #15
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If you say 'could just make out' the barn, you're saying that getting a clear look at the barn is difficult - more difficult than things you've previously mentioned. It's implied that it's further off. If you don't add that qualification, then you imply everything is equally easy to see through the crack - visibility is good. Nobody has to stretch for something. What you're describing as 'filtering' is also just a perfectly serviceable attempt to convey a pertinent and maybe suspenseful piece of information to the reader, without tying yourself in knots.

Maybe if you do this all the time, put the character into those sense descriptions, you'll get some of those bad side-effects we're warned about, like 'distancing' from the POV character. I never notice this, myself - when I feel uninvolved in a book, I can usually tell why, and it hasn't ever been this. I am not sure I really believe the theory of 'distancing', I don't know whether 'filtering' contributes to it even if it does exist, and I am starting to worry this is becoming a hobbyhorse of mine, so I'll shut up.
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Old 02-06-2013, 03:16 AM   #16
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I don't know whether 'filtering' contributes to it even if it does exist, and I am starting to worry this is becoming a hobbyhorse of mine, so I'll shut up.
I'm not so sure about distancing either, but it can affect immediacy, especially in an action scene.

Consider:

I saw the giant spider coming towards me....

v

The giant spider leapt at me.....

It also helps with conciseness etc, and reducing redundancy - if we know whose POV we are in, nine time out of ten you don;t need the extra 'I heard' or whathaveyou. .

That said, there is a place for all those filter words (esp in a conversational POV).

Like adverbs etc, it;s just something to be aware of, especially if you use it a lot.

And it's a cute little hobbyhorse
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Old 02-06-2013, 03:29 AM   #17
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And recently, I've had a reader comment that those unfiltered statements don't always make it clear to him whose pov the scene is in (he's not saying I should use filters constantly but that one here and there wouldn't be amiss as a reminder).

.

I don't often blame the reader, and here I'm inclined to suspect the writer (although it COULD be the reader).....but my first thought is if they don't know who's head they're in without filtering, the writer is probably failing. Or the reader should stop watching tv over the top of his book and pick one diversion at a time.....

in any case, and I do see reasons to filter, I don't believe this is one of them.
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Old 02-06-2013, 04:04 AM   #18
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I have to admit, this is something I don't understand at all, although it isn't the first time I've run into it. I recall a critiquer once telling me that in order to stay in POV, I had to constantly write stuff like he heard, she felt, he saw, she thought, etc. Otherwise the reader wouldn't remember whose POV it was.

That is utter nonsense to me. Make clear the POV at the beginning of a scene, and then assume your reader is intelligent enough to keep up.
I am also in the school of thought that assumes intelligence on the part of the reader. I'm also of the school of thought that if a sentence needs to go from eight words with a filter phrase, to avoiding it with sixteen words. I'm going with eight words unless the scene in question has a problem with filters already. Especially in action scenes where short, crisp sentences are desirable over flowery descriptors. Sometimes that means using a 'lazy' word or two.
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Old 02-06-2013, 06:57 AM   #19
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Bob was walking down the road when the lion attacked from behind the parked Lamborghini. Again.
Obviously Bob learned nothing from the first encounter.
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Old 02-06-2013, 08:21 AM   #20
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Like anything, it's okay to filter if you're doing it for a reason.

Through the gap in the wood, she could see...

After you've established that, however, you can go without filtering. You don't need to remind the reader over and over again what she's looking through.
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Old 02-06-2013, 08:40 AM   #21
akpeach
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I am learning so much here. I have some editing to do.
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Old 02-06-2013, 02:29 PM   #22
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I follow and have no argument with what you are saying.

To me, considering the removal of what are described as filters is simply one way of showing how a POV might be strengthened - if what are termed filters are overused to the extent that the POV is indeed weakened.

The words overused and excessive are relevant and I agree the 'weakened' issue is subjective but surely it's desirable for a beginner to be aware of the potential danger of the excessive use of filters in the same way that the pitfalls of the excessive use of many other items is also something to be aware of.

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If you say 'could just make out' the barn, you're saying that getting a clear look at the barn is difficult - more difficult than things you've previously mentioned. It's implied that it's further off. If you don't add that qualification, then you imply everything is equally easy to see through the crack - visibility is good. Nobody has to stretch for something. What you're describing as 'filtering' is also just a perfectly serviceable attempt to convey a pertinent and maybe suspenseful piece of information to the reader, without tying yourself in knots.

Maybe if you do this all the time, put the character into those sense descriptions, you'll get some of those bad side-effects we're warned about, like 'distancing' from the POV character. I never notice this, myself - when I feel uninvolved in a book, I can usually tell why, and it hasn't ever been this. I am not sure I really believe the theory of 'distancing', I don't know whether 'filtering' contributes to it even if it does exist, and I am starting to worry this is becoming a hobbyhorse of mine, so I'll shut up.
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Old 02-06-2013, 03:24 PM   #23
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Personally, I preferred: "Outside, she could just make out the wall of a wooden building." As opposed to the other suggestion.

It's rather subjective. But your own phrasing reads much better to my mind.

I think it's always more important, above all else, to use the voice of your characters, rather than being a stickler for literary rules and guidelines. In actuality, there are none.
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Old 02-06-2013, 06:12 PM   #24
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It's not a question of choosing between using the voice of one's characters and 'being a stickler for literary rules and guidelines'.

It's a question of writing clearly and effectively.

It's true that if what one writes works, it works, but it is often wise for beginners to recognise there are proven techniques for writing more effectively.

Reading the type of stories one intends to write can show what these techniques are but some folk prefer to plough their own furrow, and I say good luck to them if that approach works.

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Personally, I preferred: "Outside, she could just make out the wall of a wooden building." As opposed to the other suggestion.

It's rather subjective. But your own phrasing reads much better to my mind.

I think it's always more important, above all else, to use the voice of your characters, rather than being a stickler for literary rules and guidelines. In actuality, there are none.
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Old 02-06-2013, 06:55 PM   #25
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It's not a question of choosing between using the voice of one's characters and 'being a stickler for literary rules and guidelines'.

It's a question of writing clearly and effectively.

.

quoted, and bolded, for truth. because it is a truth rarely appreciated by the people who would rather insist the powers that be want to kill their art, than put in the work to improve their art itself
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