I Watched As Filters Messed Up My Story

coverYeah, we’ve all done it. You’re writing a story and the words are flowing and when you look up… it’s full of filters.

What?

What are filters? Glad you asked.

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Using my unreleased manuscript An Angel On Her Shoulder, I am showing you my techniques for reworking a story into a more readable, more enjoyable piece. It’s 45+ lessons in about 45 days. (To start at Chapter 1, click HERE.)

To view it best, bring up the two versions in different windows and view them side by side to see what was changed.

Then give me your thoughts in the comment section.

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I watched as

– That’s a filter.

What comes next is your story. Cutting the filter makes for a cleaner, smoother, more engaging story.

I watched as the dog bit the man.

Cut “I watched as”

Yeah, but I was there and I was watching

RIGHT! You were THERE! So just say the dog bit the man. Because as soon as you start the scene, we readers will figure out whose POV we are in, whose head, and if it’s you, we see what you are seeing. Therefore, it’s like saying “with my eyes I saw” – of course you saw with your eyes. Like you could see with you feet? And since it’s your POV, you don’t need to tell us you watched. We know. So it just happens.

The dog bit the man.

Ah, filterless bliss.


Chapter 25 “FINAL”

 

“Start at the beginning.” He reached across the table and pushed a chair out for me. “And call me Tyree.”

“Tyree.” I nodded, sitting down. “You got it.”

I thought I got lucky when Father Frank didn’t laugh me right out of the Our Lady Of Mercy. Hopefully this Tyree guy wouldn’t laugh me out of the donut shop.

“Your name is unusual sounding.” I was stalling. “Like it’s made up.”

He took a sip of his Coke and smiled. “Well, it’s a nickname, really.”

I was sure Tyree had been in plenty of meetings like this before, and knew some small talk was usually necessary to get people to loosen up. I’d heard cops did that. Maybe he used to be one.

Sitting back in his chair, his khaki pants looked freshly ironed after his three hour drive. So did his shirt. I bet he could’ve beat up everybody in that parking lot and he’d still look that way.

“The name Tyree is an acronym and a double entendre, all in one.”

“Doesn’t sound like a typical nickname, like calling a tall guy shorty, you know?”

That seemed to surprise him a little, and he laughed, choking on his soda. “That’s funny.” He coughed, clearing his throat. “No, that’s right, it wasn’t a typical nickname. John Tyler Reed was the name they called when they took attendance in school. So the kids called me all sorts of stuff. Ty-Rod, Ty-Ree . . . but when I got into my vocation, it took on another meaning for me.”

Vocation?

“I came up with an acronym. T-Y-R-E-E. Trust Your Religion for Everything.”

Not an ex-cop. An ex-priest?

I guessed I had some kind of nutty bible thumper with me now, but the conversation here wasn’t jiving with the guy in the parking lot who was ready to mix it up.

I thought about his explanation for the nickname. “That doesn’t really work. It spells tyre. Like ‘tire.’”

He took another drink of his Coke. “Would you want the nickname of ‘Tire’? That’s why had the extra ‘E’ on the end. It stands for ‘every day.’”

I’d give him five minutes, and if he was batty then I’d wrap it up and head for the door. “Yeah, well . . . I guess you’re entitled to your own nickname.”

“Thank you. Let’s get down to business.” He leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table. “What happened for you to call me?”

I took a deep breath, trying to decide just how ridiculous I wanted to sound.

“Why am I here?” He hooked a thumb over his shoulder. “It wasn’t just to bail you out of a fight in that parking lot. What’s going on? Is the wolf at the door?”

“No, no. Not like that.” I rubbed my eyes. “Not quite, anyway. It’s—it’s not easy to explain. I’m not sure I even understand it myself.”

“If you understood it, you wouldn’t need me.” Tyree stood up. “This sounds like it might take some time. “You drink coffee?”

“No.”

“Well, I do. By the pot. And this sounds like a two pot story. So let me get some java, and then you just start wherever you feel most comfortable starting. I have time.” He strode off to the cashier.

I sat there, alone with my soda, wondering what I should tell and what I should keep. Deep inside I knew I had to tell somebody, even if was just to get this insanity off my chest. And talking had always been helpful for me, in a therapeutic sense. It forced me to organize and articulate my thoughts. If I ever had a problem that needed organizing, this one did.

You gotta start trusting somebody sometime, Doug.

Tyree had already earned my trust back in the parking lot. What more did I want?

He returned with a gigantic plastic coffee mug. “You ready?”

“Sure.” I nodded. “It’s gonna sound pretty bizarre.”

“I’m sure it will. If it didn’t…”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t have called you.”

Tyree sat, holding his coffee in both hands. “You mentioned three stories on the phone. Tell me the three stories.”

“Okay,” I said. “Brace yourself, here comes the crazy.”

Leaning back, Tyree took a sip from the big mug. “Bring it.”

I started with the winery episode. By now, Mallory and I had talked about it so many times, it had its own name: The Winery Wreck. If either one of us used those words, the other instantly knew what they were talking about.

From there, I told him about the car fire on the bridge, and discovering the heart condition in our daughter. Again, you could call it bad luck—poor thing, having a rare heart condition—or you could call it good luck: Hey, you found out about a potentially fatal heart condition and were able to take steps to avoid an untimely death. You were lucky.

But the fact that these events happened around the same time of year, really pretty much always during the same week of the year, that was a worrisome fact. That put it out of the realm of good or bad luck.

Tyree agreed.

By the time I told him all three stories, more than two hours had passed. I rambled on; Tyree quietly sipped his giant plastic mug of coffee.

“Why can’t it be both?”

“What?” I said. “Why can’t what be both?”

“These things that keep happening to you and your family. Why does it have to be decisively good luck or bad luck? Why can’t it be both?”

I didn’t know how to answer.

“Look.” Tyree scooted his chair forward and rested his arms on the table. “What does a situation look like when something good and bad are happening? When they happen simultaneously?” He let that sit in the air for a moment. “I think it looks a lot like what you’re describing.”

I rubbed my chin. “I’m not sure I follow, but let’s say you’re right. What does that mean to me?”

He took another long gulp of coffee. “I don’t know.”

I glared at him. “Well, that’s helpful.”

“No, no . . . I understand. It’s not.” He stared at the paper napkin on the table top. “Not yet anyway. But it’s a step. Let’s come back to that. Let’s talk about something else. Give your mind a chance to rest from all this tragedy stuff for a moment.” He stood up. “I’m getting more coffee. You need anything?”

I shook my head.

His massive mug was empty, so he went for more. I rubbed my eyes, thinking about updating Mallory. So far, I didn’t have anything to really tell her. Hey, honey, I almost got beat up in a dark parking lot. I’m now sitting in a donut shop telling a stranger our crazy stories. If she were asleep, she wouldn’t want to wake up for that, and if she were awake, it would only upset her.

I texted. Everything is okay. Still talking. Will be home soon.

Tyree came back to the table with his refill. “You probably have some questions for me. What are they?”

That caught me off guard. He was a straight shooter, though, so he would probably be prepared for whatever I asked. I thought for a moment. “Are you a priest?”

“Nope. I studied Divinity, though. I was looking into becoming a priest.”

“What happened?”

“I kind of had a problem with the whole celibacy thing.”

That made us both laugh.

I ran my finger along the side of my soda, causing beads of water drip off the end. “Tell me about Help For The Hopeful. How did that get started?”

“I was gonna have Help For The Hopeful put on my license plate.” He blew on his coffee to cool it. “You know, ‘HFTH.’ People thought it meant ‘have faith,’ and that was nice, too.”

“What about a vow of poverty? Is there any money in doing what you do?”

“Can be.” He avoided saying more by taking a long drink from his mug.

I shrugged. “Seems like it could take a lot of money to run ads and meet with crazy people, maintain phones and an office.”

“I said I wouldn’t ask you for any money. We have had a few grateful benefactors who were happy with our services. They have given us some gifts, from time to time.”

I wasn’t grasping it. Tyree put out a hand. “You do a big favor for a wealthy industrialist.” He put out his other hand. “You get to call in little favors for a long time. And they are happy to help because they benefitted.”

I gave him a half frown. “Does the Church know about all this?”

“Well, kind of.” He gazed out the window at the empty parking lot. “C’mon, it’s off track betting, a white lie.”

“It’s a little different from a white lie.”

“That’s right. It is.” He folded his hands and looked me in the eye, assuming a flat, no-nonsense tone. “It’s a gray lie, maybe even something with a little more color that that. So be it. I know that what I do is worthwhile. People benefit, and I get help from people who know people. It all works out. Besides.” His voice softened. “I have a bit of an inside track with The Almighty. A friend does my confessions at a half price.”

“He’d have to.” I shook my head. “I bet you’re a volume customer.”

Tyree smiled again. I was relaxing, and that’s what was needed. A tense mind doesn’t operate well.

“The Church doesn’t directly know about me, usually. In places that are uncomfortable, or places where the Church feels folks are less hospitable, they outsource. Subcontractors, so to speak, so they can keep their hands clean.”

He watched my face. His story sounded as bizarre as mine. “So, you’re like the Church’s CIA?”

Glancing around, he lowered his voice. “Hey, be careful. They have that.”

We both laughed.

“You’re quite the radical, Tyree.”

“Yeah, that radical stuff was all the rage in the 1970’s. Then it kinda went out of style; everybody got into making money. Even us. Damned shame. You got a cigarette?”

I shook my head.

“No?” He seemed disappointed. “Of course you don’t. Figures. I quit anyway.”

That struck me as an odd statement. “When did you quit?”

“This time? This morning.” He folded his hands behind his head and lack in the chair, stretching. “When I was talking to miss Margarita at the bar where I misplaced my keys. She said she couldn’t kiss a man who tasted like an ashtray.”

“Margarita? Was that her name or was she a beauty pageant winner?”

“Ah, well . . . Now that you mention it, that’s a good question.” He dropped his hands to his belly. “How do you think your three stories connect?”

“I don’t know that they do. My wife’s friend originally something about six months ago, that we were jinxes.”

“Nice friend.”

“Well, she was pointing out the bad stuff happens around us, not to us.”

“Not yet, anyway.”

I glared at him. “Thanks for that. Anyway, she said she didn’t want to catch the next disaster when it missed us. Or near-missed us.”

“The bullet would miss you guys and hit her, that sort of thing?”

“Right.”

Tyree took a deep breath and let it out slowly, his eyes fixed on his folded hands. “I think she may be closer than you think.”

My somewhat uplifting feeling vanished. “How’s that?”

“Well, how do you feel about all this? Lucky?”

“Not lucky, that’s for sure.” I shook my head. “No way.”

“Okay, but.” He raised his eyes to meet mine. “Do you feel unlucky, though?”

I thought about that. I really didn’t. “It’s hard to feel unlucky when we’d never been hurt, so no. We’ve just been close by when things happened.”

“That’s your training talking.” Tyree scoffed. “Years of social upbringing and societal norms. You have to move past that. This stuff always happens around the same time of year?”

“Seems like it.” I tugged at my collar.

“Maybe you don’t want to see what’s in front of you.” The words were heavy, like bricks stacking up on my conscience. “That’s understandable. Who would want to see a threat if they didn’t have to?”

He had tricked me, knowing I’d have to answer. Who would want to see a threat if they didn’t have to? I swallowed. “Anybody. Anybody with something to protect.”

He raised his eyebrows, nodded slowly, keeping his eyes fixed on mine. “And what do you protect, Doug?”

“Well, my wife, my daughter . . . my, uh, house . . . ”

“Did you always have these problems? I mean, the whole time you were married?”

 “No…”

“When did this all start? As far as you and your wife? Have ever thought about it?”

His words pierced me, ringing in my ears. I pushed my hand through my hair. “I—I don’t know.”

Tyree’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, you do, Doug.”

I could barely speak. “That can’t be the answer.”

Who would want to see a threat if they didn’t have to.

“It can’t be . . .”

“Why not?” Tyree asked. “Why are you afraid to see what’s in front of you?”

“What are you trying to say?” I winced, turning my head away from him. “It can’t be her. She can’t be the cause of all this!”

The room closed in on me. The air grew stale and stuffy.

“When did it all start?” He drove his finger into the table top.

He wanted me to say it out loud.

Things were falling into place in ways I didn’t want them to, squeezing the air out of my lungs. Sweat broke out on my forehead. “She’s innocent.”

“Who?” He shook his head. “When did it start? Say it.”

I glared at him and forced myself to speak, the answer in front of me like a white hot light. “It started when my daughter was born.” It was barely a whisper, but it rang in my ears like a cannon shot. I slid down in my chair, dazed at how it sounded out loud.

“I think that’s significant, don’t you?” Tyree said.

I was a traitor. A turncoat.

Worthless.

She can’t be the cause of all this. She can’t be.

“She’s just a little kid!” I gasped, looking up at him. I was nearing my limit. “She can’t be why this is happening.”

Tyree just stared at me. After a long moment, he asked, “Why not?”

The words just hung in the air, echoing around in my head without an answer.

Why not?


Original Chapter 25, An Angel On Her Shoulder

 

“Start at the beginning,” he offered. “And call me Tyree.”

“Tyree,” I echoed, sitting down. “You got it.”

I wasn’t ready to spill my guts yet, so I stalled for time while I worked up my nerve. This was an awkward thing for me to lay out in front of another human being, especially a stranger. At least at the church I kind of knew them a little; how they operated and what I might expect. These theories that my wife and I had come up with, they didn’t necessarily make sense or add up. But if there was really something to it, I knew I needed help. That meant telling my story – however ridiculous it sounded – to several people.

I thought I got lucky when Father Frank didn’t laugh me right out of the Our Lady Of Mercy. Hopefully this Tyree guy wouldn’t laugh me out of the donut shop.

“The name ‘Tyree’ is unusual sounding,” I said. I was stalling. “Like it’s made up.”

“Well, it’s a nickname, really,” he took a sip of his Coke and smiled. He’d had meetings like this before so he knew some small talk was necessary first, to get people loose so they’d talk. I heard that cops do that. Maybe he used to be one. But he didn’t look big enough to be a cop. “The name Tyree is an acronym and a double entendre, all in one.”

He probably thought I needed to ratchet down after the parking lot confrontation. I didn’t. I needed to ratchet up to start talking about my problem without sounding crazy.

“The name ‘Tyree’ sure doesn’t sound like a typical nickname. Like they guy they call Shorty because he was six feet tall in third grade. You know?”

That surprised him a little, and he laughed, sending some soda down the wrong pipe. “That’s funny,” he managed. Then he cleared his throat. “No, that’s right, it wasn’t a typical nickname.”

He went on. “They just called me Tyree because John Tyler Reed was the name they called when they took attendance in school. So most kids were announced by just their first names, but I had three, and they called me all sorts of stuff. Ty-Rod, Ty-Ree… but when I got into my vocation, it took on another meaning for me.”

I waited. Vocation?

“I came up with an acronym. T-Y-R-E-E. Trust Your Religion for Everything.”

Not ex cop. Ex priest?

“Really? Hmm.” I thought about it for moment. “Did you come up with that yourself? Because it doesn’t really work…”

He furrowed his brow.

“That doesn’t spell Tyree; it spells tyre. Like ‘tire.’”

He smiled, taking the moment to let my attempt at humor get rid of the remaining tension. “Would you want the nickname of ‘Tire’?” He asked. Before I could answer, he added “that’s why had the extra ‘E’ on the end. It stands for ‘every day.’”

Okay… I guess I have some kind of nutty bible thumper here. This conversation isn’t jiving with the guy in the parking lot who was ready to mix it up.

“Fair enough,” I said, as noncommittal as possible. “I guess you’re entitled to your own nickname.”

Give him five minutes. If he’s batty, then  wrap it up quick and head for the door.

“Thank you. Let’s get down to business.” He leaned back in his chair. “What happened for you to call me?”

I took a deep breath and blinked, trying to decide just how ridiculous I wanted to sound.

Tyree leaned in. “Why am I here? It wasn’t just to bail you out of a fight in that parking lot. What’s going on?” He lowered his voice. “Is a wolf at the door?” he asked quietly. I shook my head.

“Not like that.” I stayed tentative. “Not quite, anyway. It’s not easy to explain.” I sighed. “I’m not sure I even understand it myself.”

Tyree nodded. “If you understood it, you wouldn’t need me.” Then he stood up. “This sounds like it might take some time,” he proclaimed. “You drink coffee?”

“No.”

“Well I do. By the pot. And this sounds like a two pot story. So let me get some joe, and then you just start wherever you feel most comfortable starting. I have time.” Then he strode off to the cashier.

And I sat there, alone with my soda, wondering what I should tell and what I should keep. Deep inside I knew I had to tell somebody, even if was just to get this insanity off my chest. And talking had always been helpful for me, in a therapeutic sense. It forced me to organize and articulate my thoughts. If I ever had a problem that needed organizing, this one did.

You gotta start trusting somebody sometime, Dan.

Tyree had already earned my trust back in the parking lot. What more did I want?

Tyree returned with a gigantic plastic coffee mug. “You ready?” he asked.

“Sure,” I nodded. “It’s gonna sound crazy.”

“I’m sure it will. If it didn’t…”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t have called you.”

I guess I needed to trust somebody with the crazy stuff. Why not this guy? I already told a priest; he didn’t think it was so strange… 

“You mentioned three stories on the phone,” Tyree said. “Tell me the three stories.”

“Okay,” I said. “You asked for it. Brace yourself; here comes the crazy.”

“Okay,” Tyree said, leaning back and sipping his coffee. “Bring it.”

I started with the winery tragedy. By now, Michele and I had talked about it so many times, it had its own name. The Winery Wreck. If either one of us used those words, the other instantly knew what they were talking about: our near death experience while vacationing, where Michele thought that Savvy and I had been run over by the deranged winery owner in his pickup truck.

It still didn’t sit well with us. Crossing parking lots was a much more dangerous thing to do now. Even if somebody saw you, that didn’t mean that they wouldn’t drive right into you. That’s what the winery guy did.

From there, I told him about the car fire. The day Savvy and I were supposed to drive over to my brother’s, but got stuck on the bridge while our car burned. Again, anyone could chalk it up to bad luck, or even good luck if you were that sort of person, seeing the silver lining. But the fact that these types of things always seemed to happen around the same time of year, really pretty much always during the same week of the year, that was a worrisome fact. Tyree agreed.

Then there was the whole birth event, where the doctor miraculously discovered the heart condition in our daughter. Again, you could call it bad luck – poor thing, having a rare heart condition. Or you could call it good luck. Hey, you found out about a potentially fatal heart condition and were able to take steps to avoid a tragedy. You were lucky.

Each year, around the same time of year, another big… issue. A tragedy; a near-tragedy. Good luck or bad luck, depending on how you want to force the equation…

By the time I had told him all three stories, more than two hours had passed. I rambled on; Tyree quietly sipped his giant plastic mug of coffee.

“Why can’t it be both?” Tyree interrupted.

“What?” I said. “Why can’t what be both?”

“These things that keep happening to you, to your family,” Tyree said. “Why does it have to be decisively good luck or bad luck? Why can’t it be both?”

I didn’t know how to answer.

He went on. “Look, what does a situation look like when something good and bad are happening, or when something good and bad happen at the same time?”

He let that sit in the air for a moment before he added, “I think it looks a lot like what you’re describing.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” I said, “but let’s say you’re right. What does that mean to me?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” He took another long gulp of coffee.

I glared at him. “Well, that’s helpful.”

“No, no… I understand. It’s not,” He admitted. “Not yet anyway. But it’s a step.”

He brightened. “Let’s file that way for a moment. We’ll come back to it. Let’s talk about something else; give your mind a chance to rest from all this tragedy stuff for a moment.”

He stood up. “I’m getting more coffee. You need anything?”

I shook my head.

His massive mug was empty, so he went for more. I thought about updating Michele. So far, I didn’t have anything to really tell her. Hey, honey, I almost got beat up in a dark parking lot. I’m now sitting in a donut shop telling a stranger our crazy stories… If she were asleep, she wouldn’t want to wake up for that, and if she were awake, it would only upset her.

I texted. “Everything okay w me. Still talking to Tyree. Will be home soon.”

I sent it and watched Tyree walk back to the table with his refill.

“You probably have some questions for me,” he said, sitting down. “What are they?”

That caught me off guard. He was a straight shooter, though, so he would probably be prepared for whatever I asked. I thought for a moment.

“Are you a priest?” I asked.

“Nope,” he replied flatly. “I studied Divinity, though. I was looking into becoming a priest.”

“What happened?”

“I kind of had a problem with the whole celibacy thing,” he said, smiling.

“Hah. Okay. Tell me about Help For The Hopeful,” I said. “How did that get started?” It was starting to sound like a group run by a former priest who isn’t a former anything; he’s just operating outside the strict rules of the Church. That might be okay, really…

“Don’t ask questions that you don’t really want the answers to,” Tyree cautioned.

“Don’t talk in platitudes,” I replied.

He gave me a curious smile. “Why not? You do.”

“How would you know that?” I asked.

“You’re a dad, aren’t you?”

Fair enough.

“I was gonna have Help For The Hopeful put on my license plate.” He blew on his coffee to cool it. “You know, ‘HFTH’. People thought it meant ‘have faith,’ and that was nice, too.”

“What about a vow of poverty?” I asked. “Is there any money in doing what you do?”

“Can be,” he said coyly, taking another sip.

“How does it work? You said you wouldn’t ask for money. Seems like it could take a lot of money to run ads and meet with crazy people, maintain phones and an office…”

“I said I wouldn’t ask you for any money,” Tyree corrected. “We have had a few grateful benefactors who were happy with our services. They have given us some gifts, from time to time.”

He could see I wasn’t grasping it.

“You do a big favor for a wealthy industrialist, you get to call in little favors for a long time. And they are happy to help because they benefitted.”

“Does the Church know about all this?” I asked.

“Well, kind of,” he said. Then he smiled. “C’mon, it’s off track betting, a white lie.”

“It’s a little different from a white lie,” I said.

“That’s right. It is,” he admitted. “It’s a gray lie, maybe even something with a little more color that that. So be it. I know that what I do is worthwhile. People benefit, and I get help from people who… know people. It all works out. Besides, I have a bit of an inside track with The Almighty; a friend does my confessions at a half price”

“He’d have to,” I said, shaking my head. “You sound like a volume customer.”

He smiled. He could see I was relaxing, and that’s what was needed. A tense mind doesn’t operate well.

“So the Church knows about you?”

“Not directly, usually. In places that are uncomfortable, or places where the Church feels folks are less hospitable, they outsource. Subcontractors, so to speak, so they can keep their hands clean.”

He paused.

“So you’re like the Church’s CIA?” I asked.

“Hey, be careful. They have that.”

We both laughed.

“You’re quite the radical, Tyree.”

“Yeah, that radical stuff was all the rage in the 1970’s. Then it kinda went out of style; everybody got into making money. Even us. Damned shame. You got a cigarette?”

I shook my head. “No? Of course you don’t. Figures.” Then he added, “I quit anyway.”

That sounded odd. “When did you quit?”

“This time? This morning,” he said. “When I was talking to miss Margarita at the bar where I misplaced my keys. She said she couldn’t kiss a man who tasted like an ashtray.”

“Margarita? Was that her name or a drink she was trying to sell you?”

“Ah, well… Now that you mention it, that’s a good question.” Then he changed gears abruptly. “How do you think your three stories connect?”

“I don’t know that they do,” I said. “I just have a feeling. My wife and I just stumbled into it during a conversation. An accident.”

An accident. Interesting choice of words to describe what’s happened.

“My wife’s friend originally said it, about six months ago,” I went on. “They were talking about vacation plans for our anniversary, and Michele mentioned the trip through wine country. It was between that and a cruise. Her friend said to drive through wine country because bad stuff had happened the last few years during our anniversary trips. She said she wouldn’t take a cruise because the ship would sink or something.”

“Nice friend.”

“She did point out though, that she couldn’t tell if we were lucky or unlucky.”

“How’s that?” Tyree asked.

“Well, you can say we’re unlucky because these things keep happening, or you can say that we’re lucky because we aren’t ever hurt. The bad stuff happens around us, not to us.”

“Not yet, anyway.”

I glared at him. “Thanks for that. Anyway, she said she didn’t want to catch the next disaster when it missed us. Or near-missed us.”

“The bullet would miss you guys and hit her, that sort of thing?”

“Right.”

“I think she may be closer than you think.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, how do you feel about it? Lucky?”

“Not lucky,” I said, “that’s for sure.”

“Do you feel… unlucky?”

I thought about that. “It’s hard to feel unlucky when we have never been hurt. We’ve just been close by when things happened and other people got hurt.”

“That’s your training talking,” Tyree said. “Years of social upbringing and societal norm. You have to move past that. This stuff always around the same time of year?”

“Seems like it,” I said.

“Then I think maybe you don’t want to see what’s in front of you. That’s understandable. Who would want to see a threat if they didn’t have to?”

He had tricked me, knowing I’d have to answer.  Who would want to see a threat if they didn’t have to. Anybody. Anybody with something to protect.

“What do you protect?” he asked.

“Well, my wife, my daughter… my… my house, job, dog…”

“Did you always have these problems? I mean, the whole time you were married?”

Don’t go down that alley.

“No…”

“When did this all start? As far as you and your wife have ever thought about it?”

“I don’t… That can’t be the answer.”

Who would want to see a threat if they didn’t have to.

“It can’t be…”

“Why not? Why are you afraid to see what is in front of you?” Tyree asked.

“What are you trying to say?”I demanded. “It can’t be her! She can’t be the cause of all this!”

She can’t be!

“When did it all start?” He asked again. He just wanted me to say it out loud.

I felt things falling into place in ways I didn’t want them to. “It started when my daughter was born,” I whispered. I was dazed at how it sounded.

“I think that’s significant, don’t you?” he said.

She can’t be the cause of all this! She can’t be!

“She’s just a little kid!” I said, nearing my limit. “She can NOT be why this is happening.”

Tyree just stared at me. After a long moment, he asked, “Why not?”

The words just hung in the air, echoing around in my head without an answer.

Why not?

 


ANALYSIS

We cut a few filters here, and there were a lot of filters we trimmed in prior chapters, but one lesson at a time. We also corrected some dialogue issues (the speeches went on too long) and added a tad of tension (some emotional stuff for Doug at the end). 

Here’s a list of filtery stuff:

  • I watched
  • I saw
  • I decided (these can be he saw, he decided, too.)
  • I heard
  • I looked
  • etc

The trick is to replace them with better phrases when needed, which is a lot of the time but not always. So

I watched as themoon rose over the mountains

becomes

The moon rose over the mountains.

And

I heard my wife crying.

becomes

Through the door, the sound of sobbing came to me.

See?

We cut dialogue tags and added beats, added descriptions, added depth and inner monologues in this chapter, too. That stuff, you learned in a different chapter/lesson.

But I have a lot of filter words in some of these chapters. Yeah. Sometimes you want to portray some distance, for effect, or folksiness. But use with caution. I’ll be removing a fair number of them.

We’ve been doing a lot of stuff in every chapter we fix, and sometimes it makes for a loooooong editing process. But doing it makes you oh so aware every time you start to write I saw or a crutch word, or was (this story’s full of was’s. Oh, well.)

If you had back the time you spent editing out that horrible stuff out, you could write another book.

And it’d be just as bad. So take the lesson and learn the rule.

Now:

head shot
your humble host

Let me have your comments. The next chapter will post tomorrow but they will ALL come down shortly after February 15, so don’t dawdle!

You are readers, too. Your input will shape the final product. Be honest.

Share and reblog these! Your friends need to know this stuff, too.

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

11 thoughts on “I Watched As Filters Messed Up My Story

  1. It makes sense.. the moon rising and the sobbing heard are what the character is experiencing… We would take that for granted so to add the fillers would be redundant. Oh, now I am so needing to turn the page to find out if Tyree and Doug are truly going to hang this all on Sophie… think I’ll go make coffee

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely, agree with you on the subject of filters. I try to edit them out but even then miss some. Great post, Dan, thank you. I love how you did the interaction between them and how Tyree led Doug into his way of thinking. Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really try to watch filters (never had a name for them) *as* I write now — but that comes from practice. I still find some occasionally and make a point of looking for them specifically when editing. Very, very occasionally, I choose to keep one for a certain reason, but it’s a conscious, thought-out choice. Filters also fall under the collective umbrella of wordiness, lack of tightness (kind of the same thing but slightly different), redundancy, and lack of contribution to plot advancement or character development — the fitness test I put my text through during editing.

    I really enjoy these articles and seeing the examples of before and after. The examples really make your point stand out.

    Liked by 1 person

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