You’ve heard of writing prompts, now we have revision prompts! Each prompt will give you a specific writing issue to check for in your WIP, along with tips on how to fix each. Going through this process one issue at a time will not only help polish your current novel but will also teach you specific ways to improve your writing for your next story.
FILTERING: Filtering is a subtle form of telling. It tells readers what sense the point-of-view character is using rather than showing it. Verbs that tell which sense the character uses indicate that this form of telling is being used. The word “wonder” does this as well. It tells the readers that the character is thinking. In either case, it is better to delete the sensing verbs and just show what is being experienced or thought.
FIND: Search your WIP for each of these words: wondered, saw, heard, felt, sensed (if you’re writing in the first person, search for wonder, see, hear, feel, sense). Yes, each is likely to bring up a long list of uses, but it is well worth the time to review each one and change each use of filtering the action through the point of view character’s senses. It will reduce the amount of telling in your story, put the focus on the action words, and tighten your writing.
FILTERING: He felt sick at his stomach.
SHOWING: His stomach roiled and churned.
FILTERING: She saw him duck behind the lilac bush.
SHOWING: She ducked behind the lilac bush.
FILTERING: He heard the dogs bark.
SHOWING: The dogs barked.
FILTERING: She wondered if he really meant it when he said the dress looked good on her.
SHOWING: Did he really mean it when he said the dress looked good on her?
In each example, removing the filtering words put the action verbs front and center instead of burying them behind the sensing verbs. It also tightens the writing by taking out unnecessary words because the filtering words are actually repetitive. First the reader is told what sense the character uses, then told what he senses. Any way you look at it, simply showing what happens is better than filtering the action through the point of view character’s senses.