|Photo by Kain Kalju|
|Photo by Wendi Dunlap|
It’s the difference between:
This problem can be solved by the removal of as many filter words from the manuscript as possible. What the heck are filter words? Filter words are the windows, reminding the reader they aren’t really in the action at that moment. Instead, they’re on the outside looking in.
|Photo by niseag03|
A flag whipped in the wind, at least, that’s the sound I heard. As quick as I could blink, a pair of dark wings, the same as the guy in the water had, appeared behind Dad’s back. They flapped a couple of times; I felt their wind brush past me. I felt my jaw go slack.
A flag whipped in the wind and a pair of dark wings, like the ones in my reflection, appeared behind Dad. As they flapped, their breeze stirred the dust and grass at my feet.
|Photo by Allie's.Dad|
I went to my towel and, with shaky hands, I whipped off my t-shirt before I could chicken out.
I felt his finger trace the top edge of my cami on my back.
... his finger whispered along the upper edge of my top, across my back, leaving a trail of heat imprinted on my flesh.
|Photo by Toms Bauģis|
There below me, in the darkness of the cavern, by the light of a stream of fire spewing forth from its mouth, I saw the dragon.
Below in the darkness, a stream of fire spewing from its mouth, a dragon lumbered into the cavern.
Search for these words:
Once the words are located, rewriting most sentences is fairly simple. A lot of times, the filter portion can just be deleted, other times it may require a little more creativity, but hey, that's what writers do. Right?
I heard footsteps rushing behind me, but I turned and saw no one there.
Footsteps rushed behind me, but I turned and no one was there.
The audience knows the character heard the sound of footsteps simply because the footsteps are mentioned in the text. Similarly, readers will assume the character saw no one was there, it doesn't have to be spelled out for them. So, unless our character is like Helen Keller, these things will be understood.
However, if the footsteps were felt, instead of heard, then the writer can describe the manner in which that manifests. The same can be said for the character's lack of sight. It's the writer's job to lay out exactly how the character knew no one was there.
Vibrations thumped the soles of my feet; someone was following me. When I turned, hands groping the darkness, there was no one.
Of course, as with all rules, this one can and/or should be broken in certain circumstances.
Check back next week. We will take a closer look at Dead-weight Words as the Ten Writing Tighteners Series continues. If you sign up to follow by email, it will come to you automatically (look near the top right of the screen).
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Ten Writing Tightener Series includes1. Filters 10/14/13
2. Dead-weight Words 10/21/13
3. Echoes 10/28/13
4. Sentence Structure Stagnation 11/04/13
5. Redundancy 11/11/13
6. Telling vs. Showing 11/18/13
7. Voice Not Character Appropriate 11/25/13
8. Brevity Blunders 12/09/13
9. Head Hopping 12/16/13
10. Underestimating the Reader 12/23/13