Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Monday, September 3, 2012


I read a lot. I always have. Granted, I read less now since I'm writing full time, but my Kindle still gets a fair workout every night. And although I normally read romance, I'm currently rereading works by David Morell, author of the Rambo series and The League of Night and Fog. He writes action and espionage thrillers. I tend to take time like this to reread old favorites when my creative spirit needs rejuvenation. Books by Linda Lael Miller, Jill Shalvis and others are often reread simply because keepers, like old friends, tend to calm and soothe.

Every author I read teaches me something. Either a skill they do well or ones they don't. And it's interesting to see how publishing standards change over time. Remember when books began with paragraphs about the weather or detailed description about a house or a room? Ah...back in the day, some thirty or forty years ago. We've steered away from that. Now we start our stories with an action scene and keep on running.

If only we'd veer away from "said tags."

I find them annoying. And I get aggravated with writers who use them. A pet peeve shared only by me, I know. But there you have it. I blame my agent, Dawn Dowdle, for this. "Do you hear me, Dawn?" Vonnie asked.
The "asked" said tag is my biggest peeve. Don't we all know the meaning of  a question mark? It has only one legitimate use--to indicate a series of words is a question. So why would a writer insult our intelligence by adding "he asked" afterward, as if we were too dumb to know what that question mark indicated? Drives me bonkers. Simply bonkers.
Like all good agents, mine does a strict edit of her clients' manuscripts. The usage of the words "that" and "just" and "up" and "back" are seriously slashed. Also removed are "said tags."

Experts claim using "said" or "asked" are non-intrusive and do not annoy. Bet me, buddy!


From a reader's standpoint, "said tags" are like rubber soles skidding on a highly waxed floor.


They slow movement and reduce enjoyment of the story. 

If we are to believe the adage, show, don't tell, then said tags should be avoided. Said tags tell. They tell who is speaking. Action beats show.
"Are you serious?" Jefferson asked.
"Quite," Martha said. "Two years is long enough to keep a car. I want a new one."
"Are you serious?" Jefferson's stomach clenched. Her demands on his finances was increasing.
"Quite." Martha studied her manicured nails and then arched one finely waxed eyebrow. "Two years is long enough to keep a car. I want a new one."
Cole held her close, his warm lips kissing her neck. "Tell me you don't want this," he whispered.
Cole held her close, his warm lips kissing her neck. "Tell me you don't want this." The breath from his whispered words feathered across her skin like a slow, sultry breeze.
 Can you see the difference between being "told" who is speaking and being "shown?" Yes, as a writer it takes more work. It takes developing a new skill in our "author arsenal," but the results are so worth it. Our writing becomes more polished. And picky readers, like me, are less annoyed. 

1 comment:

Calisa Rhose said...

AMEN. That is my pet peeve, too, and even more so when I personally can't seem to write around one. :) Nice post, Vonnie.