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“Check this out, Daichi.” Kiyoshi waved the letter at me. “From a girl.”

[I looked at it.] A rabbit sticker sealed the manila envelope. Graceful handwritten words read: To Kiyoshi.

The "filter/filler" here is looked at it (not sure if this is the correct term).

Is it better to leave them out in situation like this? Why or why not?

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    Filter is definitely not the word. I'm not sure there is a word for this. It is really just a bit of narrative matter. If anything you might call it "connective tissue" in the sense that it is a narrative bridge from the dialog to the description of the envelope. – user16226 Jun 30 '17 at 15:22
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    Did you perhaps mean "filler" (with two L's) instead of "filter" (with an L and a T)? – jwodder Jul 1 '17 at 2:02
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This is all about where you want to direct the reader's attention. As a writer, you have almost total control over where the reader's attention is focused in a scene.

If you write:

A rabbit sticker sealed the manila envelope. Graceful handwritten words read: To Kiyoshi.

Then the reader's attention is directed straight to the envelope.

If you write:

I looked at it. A rabbit sticker sealed the manila envelope. Graceful handwritten words read: To Kiyoshi.

Then the reader's attention is directed to the narrating character, the reader sees the character looking at the envelope rather than looking directly at the envelope itself.

Which of these you want depends entirely on what you are trying to achieve in the scene. One is not inherently better than the other; they simply achieve different effects.

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  • To my mind, "I looked at it" suggests the narrator feels rather indifferent to the letter, while I don't get that impression from the other version. – Kevin Jun 30 '17 at 23:24
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I'd say yes. It may vary depending on your style and situation - but in the given example it's quite clear, imho, that what you called filter should be omitted.

A good rule could probably be: unless you want to point out some particular detail about the action ("I looked at it with a shocked expression/as if it were from another world/etc ...) the "filter" can be omitted. It breaks the flow without adding relevant information: in the example you proceed describing the letter and your narrator takes the POV of your protagonist, so it's clear that he is looking.

Apart from this, the rule should be taken with a pinch of salt. As I mentioned it may vary on the situation. Personally I think that sentences as "What a day, he though" are allright, as long as they don't interrupt the stream of text too much, but that's pretty subjective.

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