I was shocked to find that in my advanced fiction workshop, several students consistently failed to use proper punctuation and capitalization. I almost cried. I know everyone has to start somewhere, but I had higher expectations for an advanced writing class at a university with such a great writing program.
So, I feel obligated to include this link from Fiction Factor. Aside from punctuation, definitions, tags, and simple dos and don'ts, it includes a few simple tips for avoiding repetitive tags and a few other things.
If you think you have these basics down, I'd recommend you skip straight to Fiction Factor's post, which has several reminders that I thought were helpful. One tip they mention (that I tend to forget) is:
Unspoken dialogue can, at times, be the most powerful dialogue of all. When a character says the opposite of what she means, or says nothing at all, just looks away. This too is effective dialogue.
There's also an invaluable list of body language cues, divided by emotion, that I have to include. It's too good not to.
- Angry? Fisted hands. Narrowed eyes. Stiff posture. Clenched jaw. Slashed mouth. Jerky movements. Rough handling of objects.
- Happy? Smile. Wink. Twinkle in eyes.
- Relaxed? Sprawl. Loose-limbed.
- Crowded? Back up. Create distance.
- Interested? Lean forward, draw closer.
- Questioning? Cock head. Widen eye. Elevate voice. Hands lifted, palm up. Hiked shoulders.
- Nurturing? Clip a loose thread. Pat.
- Tender? Stroke, touch, lips parted.
- Nervous? Pace, scratch, rub your arms.
- Stunned? Wide-eyed. Stone still. Hand to chest, fingers spread. Gaping jaw.
- Sad? Tears. Listless. Hand curled to chest. Shoulders slumped. Fetal position.
- Trusting? Palm open.
- Lying? Avoid eye contact. Dipped chin.