Okay, so I've been spending a lot of time in writing classes, going back to basics. Well, not really basics, actually. I'm taking on-line classes and going to RWA meetings with speakers who are advanced way beyond the basics, multipublished authors, who are passing some of their tricks and tips on.
A recent one from a speaker at the local RWA chapter near where I live was Lori Wilde. She offered the best tip I've heard in a while. In her books, she chooses some sort of prop for the characters in her scene that will represent the emotion or theme she's trying to express. That way, it keeps her away from "telling" the story and moves her towards "showing" the story.
An example would be in the Susan Elizabeth Phillips book Ain't She Sweet, the day Sugar Beth learned that her father was never going to love her the way she wanted him to, which winds up shaping her behavior for the rest of her life. Her father has always treated her like a dumb blonde, so she believes if she works hard enough, and gets all A's on her report card, he'll love her more. On the day she gets her report card (the prop), she bicycles over to show her daddy. She's bursting with pride, clutching the report card in her hand--until she sees her daddy sitting with another little girl in his lap, giving her the love and attention Sugar Beth has always wanted. That little girl is his second family, the one he really loves. Sugar Beth realizes she'll never be smart enough to get him to love her that way, and she crumples up the report card, and in her anguish, it drops to the ground, forgotten. We, the readers, realize along with her what that moment will mean in her life, and it's all represented by that dirty, forgotten, abandoned report card--a hope, a dream, trampled in the dirt.
I thought that was powerful, and I've made use of it as much as possible in my WIP. My hero, an alien cop, wears gloves most of the time. It represents his loneliness and isolation, and the way he surpresses his emotions. When the gloves come off--literally--his emotions are explosive and very near the surface. When he pulls them back on, he's under control again. It's a very effective way for communicating the hero's emotional state to the reader without saying, "He was upset."
Good tool, huh? Try it in your writing and see if it works.