Tuesday, August 4, 2009

avoiding a filter

A practical aspect of BEING THERE in a scene is not to let a filter get in the way of your character’s experience and the reader’s experience of your character’s experience. This John Gardner quote comes VIA Janet Burroway’s excellent book WRITING FICTION: AVOID“the needless filtering of the image through some observing consciousness. The amateur writes: “Turning, she noticed two snakes fighting in among the rocks.” Compare: “She turned. In among the rocks, two snakes were fighting.” Generally speaking—though no laws are absolute in fiction—vividness urges that almost every occurrence of such phrases as ‘she noticed’ and ‘she saw’ be suppressed in favor of direct presentation of the thing seen.” John Gardner

What’s so good about this advice is you can go through your manuscript and look at those “ she noticed” type phrases and the “He saw the man step toward him” instead of “The man stepped toward him” etc… and cut them, and if you do this consciously for a while, you will soon be unconsciously cutting them when you write. And here’s why I think writing can be taught—to a degree—because you can learn things like this and apply them and make your writing better. AND it will seep down into the place where writing comes from and eventually you’ll write without the phrases. We can all always learn to write better.

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