1. Voyeurism: Show Don't Tell
Prose that's in a hurry falls flat and lacks emotional impact. She was scared. Whatever. Her head twitched and fingers trembled. Maggots seemed to be crawling in her belly and her knees boiled to noodles. She couldn't think due to the feedback deafening her mind. Poor girl, I remember feeling like that when . . .
2. Let's Chat: Dialogue On Every Page
Even if you're alone all day, at some point you're going to talk to yourself. Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away made Spalding for a reason. While there is little dialogue in Wall E, the robots communicate with one another regularly. Talking humanizes characters and places the reader in a 'you are there' setting. Dialogue, or some other form of communication, on every page expresses and develops character traits, and limits the potential for lengthy sections of narrative; which shifts focus to the narrator.
3. Nobody's Perfect: Character's Need Quirks
Part of what makes us human are our imperfections: foibles, idiosyncracies, nervous ticks, and instinctive habits. If you want characters to be believable individuals instead of cliche caricatures, they need their own physical and emotional reactions to the events happening around them. Think about the last time you were hanging out with your friends and something surprising happened. Did everyone react the same? No? Who covered their mouth with their hand? Who screamed? Who was jittery? Who couldn't stop talking about it? Who thought it was funny? Who thought it was terrible? The more characters react to stimuli in their own unique way, the more believable your writing will be; no matter the genre or topic.
4. Nietzche Was Right: Hurt Your Main Characters
Are you unscathed from the course of your life? No scars, physical or mental, that come with interesting stories? Didn't think so. Readers will sympathize with characters who are hurt and humbled; it forges a bond between them and the reader in a way that is different for every reader. I like reading a book series as much as anyone, but I despise it when characters walk away unscathed from everything that happens to them; its just not realistic. People are not infallible, even if they're really good at something; recognize that in your characters and give them a chance to gain wisdom through painful experiences.
5. That's Confidential: Some Things Are Best Left Unsaid
Everyone has been in a situation where they wanted or needed to share something they know, with someone that deserved that information, but kept their mouth shut. Unshared knowledge is dramatic. Not everything that happens in your story, your character's heart and mind, needs to be narrated. Give your story tension by leaving 'blank spaces' that leaves either characters or readers or both uncertain about something that's rather important. Give your readers the autonomy to stew over a plot arc or a character's emotional dillema; once your story is in their hands, its as much theirs as it is yours. Here's the secret to keeping a good secret . . .