Something tells me someone did a blog post on this exact same thing once… but I cannot remember who, and I’m in need of blog content, so I’ll be rehashing it here.
When critiquing manuscripts, I often find myself leaving these comments: “I’d avoid filtering these things through your MC so much.”
Then, seconds later: “Can you filter this through your MC a little more?”
Which made me realize I probably ought to come up with a different term for one or the other. Instead, I’m going with the less obvious option, and just separating them into good filtering and bad filtering.
I saw the cup was empty.
I heard my brother’s screams echo through the hallway.
If you’re in third person, the same thing applies:
Peter felt the wind breeze over his skin.
The thing is, when you’re in close PoV — and in YA and SF/F, close PoV is very common — the only thing that makes it onto the page is what the MC hears, sees, smells, touches, feels, thinks, tastes. We can’t be privy to any information the MC isn’t. Saying “I felt” or “Peter thought” is therefore redundant, and will take the reader out of the MC’s head. It reminds them that this is an author describing this.
So why not rephrase the sentences instead, and keep us firmly anchored inside your MC’s head?
My brother’s screams echoed through the hallway.
The wind breezed over Peter’s skin.
This means that everything you describe is filtered through your MC’s opinions, emotions, knowledge. Good filtering takes us deep into your MC’s head.
If you don’t do this, narrative risks being flat, uninteresting, and you miss out on an opportunity to show us more about your character.
The hallway was long, with bright lights. I couldn’t wait to get out of here.
I trudged through a hallway that seemed to go on forever. Those obnoxious lights didn’t help. My eyes ached from the glare. I couldn’t wait to get out of here.
As you can see, it’s closely tied in to telling vs. showing; the former is the author describing a scene, while the latter is a character experiencing a scene.
Am I alone in confusing people with these terms? Do you call them something else? Please share!