I love the modern style of writing. In it, the prose is supposed to get out of the way and let the characters and story shine. Gone is trying to create a unique voice or poetry with your words. Instead, the goal is to be clear and concise and to tell your story.
My Ninth Law of Writing puts this concept succinctly, “Every word counts.”
It’s my dedication to the principle above that makes the use of unnecessary speech tags so annoying. I’ve stated this dozens of times — the only reason for a speech tag is to tell the reader who is speaking. If the information is conveyed already, get rid of the speech tag.
The most frequent violation of this edict that I see is a writer having a character act and speak in a paragraph and including a speech tag in that same paragraph. I noticed Sanderson doing this very thing in A Memory of Light. You’d think he’d know better.
The reader understands that the person acting and the person speaking in a paragraph are the same person.
Two important takeaways from the concept above:
1. A speech tag is not needed.
2. You must change paragraphs if you have a character act other than the speaker.
With that common mistake out of the way, I read a line in a published (traditional, not self) novel that was so horrid it inspired me to do a post.
This line is the single worst bit of writing I’ve seen in a published novel this year:
“It’s Joren, Your Highness,” Joren said.
If the author would have written, “It’s Joren, Your Highness,” Chuck said” that would have made sense. As it is, we know Joren is speaking because he says, “It’s Joren.” We know he said it because of the quotation marks. Putting the speech tags is sign of a writer who is paying absolutely no attention to his words.
Don’t do that!