John Gardner calls it, “Filtering the story through an observing consciousness.”
Old John says, “Knock it off.”
What is it? Read on, compadres.
(The advice below comes from Suzanne Hartman’s blog)
The goal when we write fiction is to make the readers feel like they are in the POV character’s head, seeing, feeling, sensing, thinking right along with the character. When we use words like “felt,” “saw,” “heard,” and “wondered,” we unnecessarily filter the senses through the POV character.
Why is this bad?
1) It puts distance between the readers and the character. It reminds the readers they are outsiders—just observers rather than in the scene with the characters.
2) These extra verbs minimize the impact of the true action (what was sensed),
3) By stating the sense, we are telling the reader something instead of showing it.
Since the readers already know they are seeing, hearing, and feeling everything the POV character, there is no need to tell them that the character saw, felt, heard or wondered something. Instead, simply state what the character thought or felt or saw.
1) He saw her step tiptoe around the lilac bush.
2) He felt his heart race.
1) She tiptoed around the lilac bush.
2) His heart raced.