Two Quick Editing Hacks: Remove Filters and Adjectives

Photo by Elia Pellegrini from Unsplash

Once your story is finished, and all the big things are in place, like setting, character motivation, climax, etc. here are a few editing tips that will make your prose stronger.

  1. Get rid of the “filter” such as “she saw,” “he felt,” “she realized,” “they noticed.” This is called the filter because it filters physical detail though a perceiving consciousness and it generally has a dampening effect. It’s okay to use those terms when you have a good reason to call attention to the character’s perception rather than the physical surroundings. Generally, though, removing the filter forces you to use more active verbs, reduce the number of words, amplify the impact of the physical. Consider these transformations:
He saw a snake ripple in the grass, which startled him. The snake rippled through the grass. He jumped.
She felt like she had been here before.Had she been here before?
He realized he was never going to see his husband the same way again.He was never going to see his husband the same way again.
She fell asleep but woke up when she heard faint music.She fell asleep. Faint music woke her.

2. Use no more than one adjective in a row, and where possible replace adjectives and adverbs with strong verbs. This makes the sentence more vivid and reduces the number of words, while forcing you to construct more active sentences. Consider the following:

The house was full of the scent of fresh-baked bread.The scent of fresh-baked bread filled the house.
The car was loud as it drove by.The car roared past them.
The cats outside my window were fighting loudly all night long.Cats screamed outside my window all night long.
She saw that clouds were coming in rapidly and the sky was turning greenThe sky darkened as clouds raced in.

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About laledavidson

My novel Blue Woman Burning will be published by Red Penguin Books in the fall of 2021: "In the cold descending breeze of the Altiplano between Chile and Bolivia, Fallon’s narcissistic mother bursts into flames before her family’s eyes. The inexplicable nature of their loss marks each family member in a different way. For Fallon it is the first step toward adulthood. For her older brother, it is a blow he never recovers from. Thirteen years later, Fallon is about to conquer self-doubt and apply to medical school, when another calamity sends her reeling. The event prompts a cross country search for a truth worth living for. What she discovers changes everything." My stories have appeared in The Collagist, Big Lucks, and Eclectica, among others. I was a finalist for the Franz Kafka Award issued by Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review as well as the Black Lawrence Chapbook Contest of 2015 and the Talking Writing Award for humorous writing advice. My story “The Opal Maker” was named Wigleaf top 50 (Very) Short Stories of 2015. I am a distinguished professor of writing and recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Creative Activity. My opinions are mine alone and do not represent the opinions anyone with whom I am affiliated.

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  1. Pingback: What’s Up in the Neighborhood, July 10, 2021 – Chuck The Writer

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