I'm a member of an online critiquing group, and I have several people with whom I exchange comments about novel chapters. I also read books about craft belong to some online writing communities. These have helped me to broaden my perspective as well as expand my vocabulary of writing related terms. One term that someone used a while back was "filtering." I wasn't familiar with the term as such, though when I looked it up, I recognized the phenomenon.
I was thinking about this the other day, because I was reading a friend's excellent chapter, and the only real thing I noticed about it was the use of filtering in some passages that were meant to be very emotionally intense and action heavy. It's a common thing for writers to do on first drafts, and fortunately, it can usually be fixed, or at least reduced.
When a writer employs "filtering" he or she is using phrases like "he thought," or "she noticed," or "Tom realized that." In essence, they are telling the reader what is happening with the pov character, not showing.
Tesk glanced up at the gilded ceiling, trying to hide the curiosity and awe she felt. To a country lass, Lord Campion's villa resembled a museum. If this was just the parlor, she wondered what were the banquet hall and ballroom like? She smoothed her skirts, then stopped when she realized that her sweaty hands were staining the green muslin. You can dress a farm horse in the trappings of a blooded mare, she thought, but no one will take her for one.
This is not wrong, per say. But the use of the filters (bold-faced) creates some distance between the character's perceptions and the reader's, and reminds the reader that he or she is experiencing narrative and not the character. The "she thought" is not technically filtering, but it is an unnecessary "dialog tag," on internal dialog, which has a similar effect to filtering of a character's perceptions.
Here's a different approach:
Tesk glanced up at the gilded ceiling, trying to hide her curiosity and awe. To a country lass, Lord Campion's villa resembled a museum. If this was just the parlor, what were the banquet hall and ballroom like? She smoothed her skirts, then stopped. Oh hells, her sweaty hands had just left stains behind on the green muslin. You can dress a farm horse in the trappings of a blooded mare, but no one will take her for one.
Same scene, same information, but in the second example, it's presented to the reader more directly.
Of course, in writing, there are few hard and fast rules, and there are times when this is necessary to make something clear to the reader. For instance, you may need to employ one at the very beginning of a scene when you want to establish point of view, or when writing in omniscient (where you can change perspectives in a scene and sometimes need to clearly "tag" which character is perceiving or thinking something). Filtering can also be beneficial when the actual act of realizing or noticing is the point of the sentence. But when writing in limited third in particular (and limited third is a very popular point of view in genre fiction these days), these filtering terms are often unnecessary and distancing. Avoiding filtering when it is feasible to do so makes the point of view feel deeper and more immediate and removes that layer of gauze from between the reader and character.