Avoiding Feeling / Felt as Modifiers

A common usage of feeling / felt in writing is as a modifier. "She felt a strange sensation come over her". Why is it best to polish those modifiers out of your writing style?

A key purpose of writing is to help your reader visualize a scene in their head. The reader follows along your chain of words, one after another, and as those words get drawn into their mind the reader puts together an image, sort of like a jigsaw puzzle. Any meaningless word that appears in that chain slows down and interferes with their visualization process. You want each word to have importance and meaning.

So take a look at this pair of sentences.

She felt a wave of hope sweep through her as the sloop drew into sight.
A wave of hope swept through her as the sloop drew into sight.

Both sentences convey the same meaning, but in the second sentence the impact is more immediate and powerful. There's no extra benefit of having "she felt" at the beginning of the first sentence, and it just slows the reader down from knowing what is going on.

Here's another example.

He felt a surge of anger course through him as he took in the extent of her bruising.
A surge of anger coursed through him as he took in the extent of her bruising.

Again, the "He felt" does little to help the scene, and if anything it creates a distance between the character and the emotion. Let that emotion be immediate and tangible.

Of course, there are cases where using "he felt" is exactly appropriate.

He felt through the murky water, searching for the dagger he had dropped.

There felt is the main thing he is doing. I suppose "groped" might be an even more powerful word there, but either one conveys a specific meaning.

So any time you use the word "felt", give thought to if it is simply a modifier and if it's really necessary to conveying your message.

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