Traveling back and forth 70 miles across Phoenix to my new home, I look at the mountains with their green fuzz from the monsoon rains. These aren't the Rocky Mountains, but still most people don't expect any bump in the desert landscape. I thought I'd share a photo of Camelback Mountain - he looks west. Photo was taken from Papago [the name of a Native People] Mountains by one of my sons. See the camel's two humps? Go left to his ear and follow his nose. There is another mountain behind it that gets in the way - sorry, I didn't notice that at first. BTW, all of this is in the middle of the City. Cool?
There are all kinds of embarrassing stories to tell about me getting lost in my new hometown. The thing is, Phoenix is laid out on a grid where the roads are wide and point in the four compass directions. The exception is the mining roads, such as Grand Avenue which cuts a diagonal to the assay office (or where it was then) from the mines in the northwest. All I can say is there must have been a lot of directional impaired people in this part of town. Nothing is on the compass in my new town - but I do like it here even if I can't see Camelback and fix my position.
And what's the point of all this, you ask? Readers. Readers expect to be able to navigate through a story without feeling lost. My big annoyance is dialogue that I can't follow without stopping to count down to see who said what. Misdirection is a part of mystery writing. There are all kinds of writing tools, but we are expected not to misuse them or slop through our stories.
The point is: if your dialogue needs tags, use them. Who cares what 'they' say is the way to write, if it isn't clear without them, use tags. The other point is: don't get cute with misdirection. I hate being on the outside of an inside joke - I think it is a rude thing to do to guests.
The point is: Write to your readers. Write honestly - no tricks, no alligators over the transom. Write clearly, tell your story to the reader, don't just write to hear yourself talk. (Okay mixed metaphor, but you got it, didn't you?)
I've heard novice writers talk of falling in love with their characters, of needing to write like it is an addiction. My opinion is, they are writing for the wrong person. Fall in love with your readers. Romance them. Adore them like a lover. Bring them gifts and surprises. Bring them the flowers of your best work (and that metaphor isn't my best work).
This isn't about what's in it for the writer - I guarantee very few make a bucket of money; this is about the reader, your reader. Love them well. Everyone else (agents, acquisition editors, publishers) will fall into place if you fall in love with your readers.