Filter words or phrases, in fiction, create distance between the direct experience of a character, and that of the reader.
Lucy heard the door slam. If we know we’re in Lucy’s mind, we don’t need to be told that Lucy heard the door slam. The door slammed. That is sufficient. It’s more immediate, and uses fewer words, to convey the same information.
Whilst there will be instances where filter words are actually useful, these are few and far between. Most of us tend to overuse them.
A few to look out for include: saw, heard, felt, noticed, realised, knew, and wondered.
These are all popular ones, but we will each have our own favourites, so it’s very individual. If you can identify filter words that you personally tend resort to, it should become easier to find and eliminate them, during the editing process.
When it comes to prose style, it’s often these seemingly minor issues that make a significant difference, to the quality of our writing, as a whole.
Removing filter words is a simple task, and definitely worth the effort.