Tip ‘O the Day – Closing the Gap

It’s Tuesday — that means another tip of the day for writers!

As an author, I  don’t want my reader standing off at a mental distance watching the action. I want her in the head of the viewpoint character. But how do you close that gap? How do you make the reader experience what the character is experiencing, feel what the character is feeling?

One way is to make sure as a writer you aren’t filtering the character’s physical sensations. By filtering, I mean using phrases like “She felt a cool breeze on her damp forehead.” Throw out that “She felt” and put the reader in the character’s head by using a more active statement like “A cool breeze chilled her damp forehead.”

Here are some more examples of filtering physical sensations, and some corny ways to remove the filter. Yeah, you’ll want to spend a little (lot) more time on your unfiltered versions than I spent on this blog.

She felt him take her hand in his. ==> He took her hand in his.
She heard a train whistle in the distance. ==> A train whistle wailed in the distance.
He smelled smoke. ==> Smoke tingled his nostrils.
She saw a robin on the windowsill.  ==> A robin perched on the windowsill.

Filtering physical sensations with words like smelled, tasted, heard and saw makes the reader feel if she’s standing across the street watching the action, or being told about it, instead of experiencing it. Close the gap between character and reader by getting rid of those filters!

That’s the tip of the day.

As a PS, I’d like to say how proud I am of all my USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) colleagues in Haiti and the rescues you are making, even at risk to your own lives. I wish I was there with you. Stay safe and hopefully I’ll see you on the next one, whenever and wherever it may occur.

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