Feel, feeling and felt. Three destructive little filter words. These words shift perspective from the story and into the character. It’s awkward to read and leaves a reader feeling disjointed even if they aren’t aware. I don’t write in first person perspective so these words in particular can cripple a sentence fast.
What to do about them. I use them a lot when I write, it’s how I get out what needs to be said, what I need to express. It’s lazy and I’m okay with that because it won’t stay that way. I searched my manuscript and found the following incidences:
Not all of them are filter word incidences. Within conversation or dialogue, they are fine or as a verb unrelated to emotions. These three are often (At least in my case) plunked into wordy sentences or super lazy ones.
Joe put the Sandwich“>sandwich together hastily. He felt the hunger pangs in his stomach. It had been ten hours since he remembered to eat last. He left the house with the printout to meet Sasha. He was excited to show her the new proof and felt certain she would believe him now. (52)
There’s a whole lot of telling going on. Let me try that again.
Finally, Joe found some undeniable proof after searching eight hours straight without even a snack. His stomach growled as he picked up the printout, his hastily made ham sandwich and ran out the door to meet Sasha. (37)
That was better, less wordy too. Here’s a mistake I make all the time.
Joe dragged his feet along the path, feeling the course gravel scuff the soles of his shoes. (17)
There is no reason to feel through his shoes and yet I am guilty of having characters ‘feeling’ unnecessary things.
Joe dragged his feet, scuffing his shoes along the coarse gravel path. (12)
Joe is an emotional person so writing his feelings can be tricky.
Joe looked at Sasha then back to the path. He felt frustrated with her constant lack of interest in him lately. She just wouldn’t listen to reason, he was right this time and he knew it. He even had the proof in his hand to show her. He felt angry when she sighed dismissively and now he was ready to snap. (61)
In that one, I made a few oopsies. Filter words, wrong perspective, and wordiness. Instead of showing, I told his emotions.
Joe glanced at Sasha as he clenched his jaw. She was ignoring the hard evidence that he worked hard to find. She rolled her eyes when he tried to show her again. When she sighed dismissively, he clenched his fists, crumpling the precious printout. (44)
Sometimes it’s not about word count and more about beefing up empty sentences.
Feeling tired, Sasha crawled into the bath. The hot water felt divine. (12)
It’s like whiplash. In her mind, out and then back in. To fix this I would add words, it’s not always about keeping word count down. That and it was a very boring sentence. The temptation to overdo it here is strong. Before I learned to make every word count, (Haha at least I try to) and to stop double describing things, it might have looked like this.
Stifling a yawn of exhaustion, Sasha eased herself into the hot jasmine scented bath. The heat from the hot water and scent of flowers soothing her tired body. (28)
Gee, do you think the water is hot? Baths usually are duh, I’m not sure, and it’s not super clear, but she might possibly be tired. *Rolling my own eyes.
Yawning, Sasha eased into the jasmine scented bath. The heat from the water soothing her tired muscles. (17)
There much better. Only five words added from the original and it’s not hurting my brain to read it.
My advice about feelings.
Everyone has them, good or bad just make sure to keep them outside the characters body or mind. Unless you are writing in first person, show the feeling don’t tell it. he clenched his jaw (instead of) he felt frustrated.
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