I wrote this tweet a couple days ago:
"No-no's in character actions: eye-rolling, grinning, smiling, sighing, head-jerking, arms crossed in front of chest. All cliches."
Think about about all the times you've seen these actions in manuscripts, even in published books-- they seem to be everywhere!
Not meaning you can never use them, of course, but be very very careful and sparing in how many times you have a character roll her eyes, cross her arms in front of her chest, smile, grin and sigh. A few I didn't include: clenching teeth, gritting teeth, glaring, laughing-- not because there's anything wrong with these actions themselves but it's because they have become too overused.
A question that came back to me: "So characters can't act like real people?"
Actually, real people have countless mannerisms. Writers must go beyond the obvious and the cliched in their descriptive tags. I mean, think about all the little expressions and gestures that real people use to show their thoughts and emotions. Why limit ourselves to those common ones that everyone else is using? As writers, we need to have refined powers of observation, not falling back on what's ordinary and easy. If you want to show a character's disgust or boredom, give me something besides eye-rolling. Please!
Crossing arms in front of chest used to be good the first few times, but lately I see it everywhere. It's unfortunately become a cliche. What other overused character mannerisms have you been seeing lately?
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart
"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf