Unfiltered

Photo by Nijwam Swargiary on Unsplash

Recently, I had an opportunity to guest blog for RWSL. So for today, you get a little bit of writing technique advice. Don’t close down yet. It’s not an English class. This might help in your own writing or speaking or social posts. So here goes.

In my writing group, we’ve been talking about filters. It’s made me hyper-sensitive to words and phrases that separate my readers from my action. Editing these filters has strengthened my writing. So let’s talk about filtering here.

The phrase ‘filtering’ comes from Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. She writes, “you step back and ask readers to step back and observe the observer—to look at [the character] rather than through the character—you start to tell-not-show and rip us briefly out of the scene.” Filters are words that come between our readers and our character’s point of view or their experience. They pull the reader out of the action.

Once you’ve become aware, you’ll begin to notice filters everywhere, and I guarantee that you’ll want to banish them as much as possible from your writing. Here is an example (filters in bold). First draft and edited excerpt from The Lies We Tell by Gigi Lynn:

The rocking of the carriage and the bumps in the road kept me holding onto my seat. I thought miserably about the day. I looked down at the boy’s clothes I wore, now much worse for the drying mud. I asked myself what did I have to show for my unladylike defiance and descent into immodesty?

I found a maid I no longer wanted but lost a dog I did. I had no papers, and I had no more information about what Hugh was doing. I asked myself, what did all of this have to do with me? I had never been involved in Hugh’s vices. I told myself shouldn’t feel responsible. I knew I wasn’t equipped to expose smugglers or fight women who ran brothels. I had been taught to be a lady. I realized that I had no other skills. What a muddle I had made of things I thought in discouragement.

The rocking of the carriage and the bumps in the road kept me holding onto my seat. What a miserable day. My boy’s clothes stuck to me, more disreputable for the mud. And what did I have to show for my unladylike defiance and descent into immodesty?

I found a maid I no longer wanted but lost a dog I did. I had no papers and no more information about what Hugh was doing. What did all of this have to do with me? I had never been involved in Hugh’s vices. I wasn’t responsible. I wasn’t equipped to expose smugglers or fight women who ran brothels. I was taught to be a lady. I had no other skills. What a muddle I had made of things.

When we take out the words that come before the action, our readers will experience the action and emotions more immediately. They will be in the story, living what happens along with the character.

Now that you’ve seen what a difference filtering makes, you’ll start noticing phrases like:

I watched as— She realized that— He noticed— He saw that— I felt like— She knew— I decided right then that— It seemed— He wondered— She thought— She heard— It sounded like— There are others, but you get the idea.

It’s our goal to have readers enter our stories. We want them to feel what our characters feel. We want them to experience the action with our character, not through our character. If we remove most of the filters from our writing, our readers will more vividly experience every action and emotion in our stories. so let’s write unfiltered!

“Gigi Lynn grew up in Las Vegas, devouring romance novels like they were candy. She studied and later taught English literature and writing—and continued to read romance novels voraciously. She raised seven children and read to them every day—and often read romance novels for fun or escape. She always said she would write one day. One day is now! She recently published two regency romance novels and a novella. Another novella will go live mid-October 2021.

World Building

This is not a blog about poetry. I promise. But poetry has been on my mind. Let me tell you why, at least in part.

As you probably know I’m writing a fantasy-romance novel.  Well, in my mind and my plans, it has become a fantasy series.  Part of fantasy is creating a world.  I love this aspect of fantasy.  I love the maps.  I think every fantasy should have maps.  The most famous, of course is the map of Middle Earth.

Maps are so satisfyingly visual.  But, I have been thinking about culture. I have to create and express culture in words. So I’ve been creating symbols, celebrations, music, shared history, and I’ve begun thinking about bards. I believe that all strong cultures, real and imagined, have this artistic center that binds the people together. It gives definition and unifies. I want to have poetry be a part of that culture. So, I think I’ll try to put at least one chant, song, or poem in each novel.

Now, I’m not a poet, but I will share my “gathering” chant from the first book in my series. The people chant this as they dance around a bon fire after the harvest is complete.

Tell me what you think:

Life from earth we have today; may it bring a better way.
As dark enfolds and sun renews, may its warmth also imbue
Each of us with light and love, be on earth as seen above.
Hand on shoulder, bound to you, linked in grace and friendship true.

Where wounds exist and sorrows found, let goodwill and mercy sound.
Burdens grave, we hope are rare, but all be healed with time and care.
Rejoice in bounty, mourn in sorrow, in unity we make tomorrow
Yield a truth and justice fair. Bless all lives. This our prayer.

As darkness falls we gather near and lift our voice so all will hear
This our hymn of oath and praise; touch us all, and bless this place.
We vow with virtues to adorn, and we, like day, will be reborn.
Hear our pledge; refine our ways. As we chant, endow with grace.

So, I’m thinking today:

As we chant (or sing, or write, or dance), endow with grace.

Don’t Give Up Yet

I’m still thinking about poetry. I hope last week’s post whetted your appetite and, more importantly, raised your comfort level. Because this week I think we should write a poem or two. This is not that frightening experience in English class in public school. This is a fun exploration of feelings and words.

To make it easy, I’ll share an activity that I’ve done with my English students at Midwives College of Utah.

I am going to provide two templates–two types of poems you could write. You plug in your words and thoughts. So, choose a topic.  I will put my first attempts, in italics, under the directions–don’t judge harshly. Also, because I’m working with student midwives, my topic choices reflect that world, so take that into account.

First, a poem with a simile. (My poem is entitled, Woman):

Line 1–Compare your topic to something else (you can use “like” or “as,” but you don’t have to).
   Woman is a warrior
Line 2–Tell why.
   She fights for and protects
Line 3–who, or what, or when  (you’ll notice I took two lines here; you are not limited).
   Those she loves
   Present and future
Line 4–Tell again how your topic is like this things or how you feel about it.
   She conquers fear with love.

Try it! Write a poem with a simile.

Or Second, an acrostic:

Take the letters of your topic (a one word topic works best here).  Each letter of the word is the first letter of a line of your poem.  I wrote about BIRTH.

Brought from darkness and warmth
Into a world of light and noise, but
Received with love.  Finally,
To touch his hands and feet, to look into his eyes.
He is small, but immense.

You can do this, too. It is kind of fun.

Growth and Insights Found In the Foreword

I have read quite a bit of Alice Walker’s writings. Though not easy reading, I find her novels and short stories worth the work–thought provoking and mind broadening. However, some of my favorite things that Alice Walker has written I’ve found in forewords, prefaces, essays, interviews, and here in an address to students from her Alma mater, Spellman College:

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