Last week, I finished a fourth draft of my novel (whew!). One thing I tried to excise was filtering. I’d used “look” about 178 times in about 65k words (thanks Find All function). This was not to my loving. Verb choice aside, as John Gardner notes in The Art of Fiction and as Janet Burroway points out in Writing Fiction, filtering is an unnecessary and common mistake. Phrases like “she noticed”, “she saw”, “she looked at”, or “she remembered” needlessly take readers one step away from the story rather than letting them inhabit the story and experience it with or through the characters. Now, the act of seeing is important in my novel, but I definitely didn’t need to let filtering phrases run rampant in the manuscript. Combing through the draft, I found instances in which removing the offending filter helped me expand and deepen imagery and sensory detail. That isn’t to say you can never ever use those verbs (that’s silly). But you’ll want to ask yourself if you really need to.
p.s. Readers, out in the ether or down the street, what do you think of bolded text in blog posts? This is my second such use. Helpful? Unnecessary?