The Blue-Green Pill

Glasses

“You take the red pill, …and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Some small part inside me loves Morpheus’ challenge: Do you have what it takes to see and accept the truth? While others might settle back down on the couch, chewing another handful of Cheetos, I foolishly stand.

Truth is a deep motivator for me. I cannot be fully religious because of this, by the definitions of many sects. I squeeze under the radar of my current denomination, by telling myself I trust it will all be cosmically explained someday.

My rational voice, upset by a few years of Atheism, plays Devil’s Advocate (ironically). It warns that no explanation will come when I cease to exist.

Why bring up such things? This is where my mind goes; this is the side effect of swallowing the left-hand option.

Surely my mindset, worldview, and even depression are Truth. They are me, as much as my blood type or detached earlobes. I need to be true to myself, to accept myself, and -above all- to not smother my emotional expression.

And yet… my daily red dosage has somehow morphed to a less-swallowable shape.

I noticed a slightly misshapen quality when I began listening to a counselor. “Your core is never negative,” she told me. Furthermore, she said my depressive reactions and tendencies were all learned behaviors.

I read self-help books on the subjects of happiness and self-esteem. They made valid points as well; like, that people honestly can raise their baseline of happiness.

However, all the psychological affirmations and literary anecdotes in the world were not enough. With or without seeking Truth, it came anyway. It laughed at my hopes and optimisms as I repeatedly returned to the dark corner of my mind.

On Facebook, I wrote the following:

When I spoke fluttering lies and raised my smiling mask, I cried inside.
But you didn’t know.

I tried to write about sunshine, as my heart grew ever overcast.
You didn’t look between the lines.

I sat in my small, shadowed corner at home, as you visited each other and laughed.
And didn’t care.

Sometimes I curiously contemplate the world without me there. Surely my departure will cause a ripple somewhere.
Instead, you’ll stand with the friends you always do, and say, “I didn’t know.”
And forget what was never known.

I got a few internet hugs in response. I felt morosely validated that, yes, they did not care.

The problem is that there is no red pill. We cannot be freed from our minds, because we are delicately and intricately attached to them. And, Truth is always, always affected by our perceptions.

Had real-life Neo entered my counselor’s office with me, he may have been given a third option: a doctor’s referral.

I’ve been dreading medical intervention for years; assuming, as I said earlier, that I would lose myself. I also assumed I would only ever have the option of anti-depressant, horrible-side-effect, me-changing medication.

Instead, I have been offered the blue-green pill.

It’s a small dose of seratonin: popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.

I’ve swallowed it once daily for the last three weeks. I thought there to be no difference, but my husband disagreed. Given that I’ve had only one depressive episode since first taking it, he may be right.

In fact, I have been able to think in a manner that is less depressive just this weekend -a first for me. I attended a few social events Friday and Saturday; and did not feel the lingering effects of my usual, self-critical social hangover.

I feel able to agree with and utilize the strategies outlined, previously, by my paid friend and the self-help book.

I see, now, the red pill was the placebo all along. To change my life for the better I needed a new perspective -not some supposed Truth. It could not come from only me, however, since I stand a few feet lower in the ground than others.

Are you, like me, sunk in the Swamps of Sadness? Affirmation will not work. Get someone to look at all your options. Even if the dry ground you need is found through heavier medications, I can now say it’s worth it.

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The Gift of a Child with Behavioral Problems

Guess what? I have a present for you; aren’t you excited? Open your womb and pull it out!

It’s a boy!
(Or, a girl. For me, I can only make boys).
He looks just like both of you! You look at each other fondly. Tiredly, but happily; proudly.

The best part of this present, though, is yet to be opened for a few years. You may not notice for a while, because no child is perfect. Every time an issue arises, or you feel frustrated, commiserating people say, “That’s just normal.”

But, where are those comments when you sit across from a preschool director and hear about your son defiantly looking right at his teachers as he pushes a child off the play equipment?

What do they say when his first grade planner has notes from the teacher of escalating issues? Notes like, “He threw a chair,” “He was biting.”

Only Pavlov’s dog empathizes with the increased heart rate and anxiety your body undergoes when you see the school calling again.
You can’t go far; the school might be calling.

You know, secretly, that you’ve actually produced a monster. In fact, an applicable example in classical literature is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

A great side benefit? Teachers, administrators, and doctors keep hinting -and outright telling you- that the problem is you.

You already know you were the root problem, if you birthed the child. You already blame yourself whenever he misbehaves, since your grassroots efforts of parenting don’t produce robot responses from your children.

It’s all true, though: you made the monster. And, as his parents, you will always be the ones who will need to fight for him.

You’re going to be embarrassed, frustrated, deeply saddened, angry, ignorant, and human. You’re going to do the wrong thing, and smack yourself figuratively for “triggering” the behaviors.

You’ll wonder how this ungainly bird could ever be expected to leave the nest without leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Cry. Get angry. Eat chocolate.
Then, find a good pediatrician. Find a good therapist. Find people to complain to. Find the free resources out there for others like you.

You’ll have to start using those over-used terms. You know -the ones you rolled your eyes about: ADD, ADHD, ODD, Autism, Sensory Disorder.
Embrace them. They’ll be your new excuse, now that you can’t use “normal” to describe childhood behavior.

This is one of those gifts like a free car: the car may be free, but the taxes, licensing, and insurance are not. You’re going to have to do more than unwrap.

You’re going to have to be an expert parent.

Dang it.

Writing Drudgery, also known as A Job

I write for a content blog, something I had never done before this year.

When I began considering that I could be a writer, I had different ideas regarding that job’s requirements. I pictured book-conjurings, writing sessions, and pleasure.

I also behaved more jealously about the words I managed to type onto a screen. They were unique, mine, precious, and copyrighted. No one else could have these ideas, and no one should steal them!

Whatever I finally offered for reading would be gasped at, astounded over, praised profusely.

I basically pictured publishers saying, Why, Chelsea! This is amazing! Here is your advance check of $3M. No, we don’t expect you to work really hard to produce this book idea, since we know you have children and like to spend your free time playing games in your Steam Library. Ten years ought to be good.

Meanwhile, fans would pour in, complimenting me. Everywhere I went, people would stop and ask if I’d pose for a picture with them. Famous writers would hang out with me -no- beg me to come over for fireside discussions of literary devices.

This is really starting to sound like a trope daydream, so why would I actually feel this way? Oh, right -probably because many people have this fantasy.

Back to content writing: I took The Job because I was tricked.

A friend told me her daughter worked for a company and they were looking for writers. I was told I would write about 500 words each article about crafting, that I wouldn’t be making the crafts, and that I would only need to worry about the writing.

It involved MONEY for writing. Just so you know, writing doesn’t get you the advance check and the fame and such if you’re not putting yourself out there more than I’m obviously willing to do right now.

The reason I say I was tricked is that I actually have to do more than type words. I don’t have to make the crafts, that’s true. And, by the way, not making things is a great idea for someone like me -someone who had to make a Pinterest account in order to do this job.

I sure get sidetracked a lot, which is something that’s come up in trying to fulfill my contract and get paid.

*Ahem* I have a content-writing job. I write for a blog that steals other people’s images (with proper attribution), and lists them all under one user-loving title. Oh, I know you’ve seen them. The article is usually named “10 Eggcellent Easter Hunts.” Actually, that one would be too clever. Most are “10+ Holiday Crafts to Make with Kids.”

The trick part is that I have to spend nearly an hour tracking down these pictures, ensuring I give proper attribution. So many sites like the one I write for are cheating, simply linking back to Pinterest or not bothering to give credit at all. I can only take one image from an article, so I can’t simply steal all ten pictures from Suzy Stitcher’s Easter Egg Hunt (as cute as it might be).

I’ve noticed addictive patterns related to this job:

1. Not being able to quit.
I’m getting writing practice, being paid, it’s super-flexible, and can’t I possibly buckle down and write five articles a week? C’mon, Chelsea, you baby. Woman up.

2. Relapse in similar settings.
In conversation with other women, I find myself actually interested in their descriptions of a craft they tried or a decoration technique they applied to their entryway. Horrified, I hear my mouth say, “I just wrote about that! Did you know you can find those birchwood wreaths at Target?”
I may as well hand them an affiliate link.

3. No control.
Whenever I have a few moments, I feel overwhelming guilt to get something done on The Job. It should take precedence, right? Must. write. boring. blog.
I have also found myself, inexplicably, walking into Hobby Lobby to peruse their latest glitter-painted yard refuse.

4. Medicating myself.
You’ll find out at some point, but I do not drink alcohol or coffee. Instead, you’ll discover a slew of candy wrappers discarded artistically round my still-warm headphones. Those, plus my exhausted upper half, are spread across a dirty computer desk at midnight.
I need deadlines and sugar for inspiration, and almost always resort to both to get the dreaded task done.

5. Desire without pleasure.
This is my NUMBER ONE problem. Typing heckling comments about birch sticks stuffed in a vase (a real thing) is not difficult. Writing five articles a week, on my own timetable, is probably the easiest job outside of door-greeter at Wal-mart.
In fact, I don’t even have to get dressed in a blue vest (and, hopefully, pants). I just have to be able to use my fingers to press buttons in a readable fashion.
So WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? Am I just a whiner?

I meant to write this post as a sort of exposé of blog-stealing blogs, and instead find myself stretched out on the proverbial psychiatric couch of the internet. No, dear internet, it was not my childhood. It’s my core disappointment in not tackling anything that takes longer than a mile’s worth of effort.

I don’t like writing for The Job. With that time, I could feasibly write my own stuff. I could write more on here, write my halfway-finished book.

Shel Silverstein, brilliant man, wrote a poem about two generals:

Said General Clay to General Gore,
‘Oh must we fight this silly war?
To kill and die is such a bore.’
‘I quite agree,’ said General Gore.
Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘We could go to the beach today
And have some ice cream on the way.’
‘A grand idea,’ said General Clay.
Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘But what if the sea is closed today?
And what if the sand’s been blown away?’
‘A dreadful thought,’ said General Clay.
Said General Gore to General Clay,
‘I’ve always feared the ocean’s spray,
And we may drown!’ ‘It’s true, we may.
It chills my blood,’ said General Clay.
Said General Clay to General Gore,
‘My bathing suit is slightly tore.
We’d better go on with our war.’
‘I quite agree,’ said General Gore.
Then General Clay charged General Gore
As bullets flew and cannons roared.
And now, alas! there is no more
Of General Clay or General Gore.

From Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein

We, creatures of habit, keep doing what we always have.

I know that I would not spend my paid-blogging time doing any such fanciful thing as completing my book. I would, most likely, decide that was a great time to start Breath of the Wild over and see how quickly I can get into the castle and beat Ganon.

It involves swimming.

Anyway, I’ve got some Pinterest to search. Apparently, Christmas is over and now I’ve got to write an article about romantic Valentine’s Day ideas.

 

Literary Prescription

“I need a new book to read,” a friend asks. “Do you have any to recommend?”

I have to steady myself against a wall; tell my thudding heart to slow. Almost euphoric, I compose myself. It simply wouldn’t do for a bibliophile of my standing to be caught drooling.

I straighten my posture and eyeglasses, immediately donning my physician’s overcoat. My pipe rests gently against my lip, held in my right hand. The left, of course, finds a casual perch halfway in a front pocket.

“What have you read lately?” I query.

The friend’s response is crucial. “Oh, I just finished up This Popular Novel,” she may say, telling me of an interest in mainstream, feel-good stories. Or maybe she admits to perusing dystopia, sampling science fiction, catching a guilty whiff of fantasy, or snitching a teen romance before dinner.

Without prompt, the information is almost always followed by, “I liked these details or this character, but am looking more for less violence or more of that world.”

I liked, but… is the imperative response to furthering my prognosis.

“Ah, yes,” I muse, pondering; filling the conversational space as my eyes wander a few titles. “Would you like another of that same genre?”

Yes or no will sort my mind to a flow-chart diagram of question, response, action. Yes leads to more of that section; then Same author?, Want another female lead?, or What about this one?

No, of course, follows an arrow to What other type would you like, then?

I’ve been out of practice for a tad longer than I’ve wished, life circumstances being what they are. I try not to allow this lapse to show, however. Professionalism is paramount; poise essential.

I clear my throat, nestling the unlit pipe in the right pocket. Striding excitedly to a shelf, I begin extracting pharmaceutical samples.

My patient listens, keenly, fully prepared to ignore my advice once within access of internet searches. For now, she watches my sorting hands move through the pile of books. She is judging appearances as I detail contents.

My calm demeanor is more difficult to maintain. I had thought my raised pressure, sweating palms, and nervous movements to be results of an overexcited reaction to a question. Instead, I realize I’ve dipped into the medicine cabinet a few times more than was healthy. I’ve become attached.

“I think you’d really like reading this one,” I say, feeling the shaky stress of a salesman’s position as I proffer a favorite.

A shrug; a, “Meh.”

I hock a few more titles. Strangely, I begin to view the rectangle-bound writings as closer friends than the human patient before me. In judging and dismissing these fragments of my soul, she has become an unwanted interloper at our private family party.

If she snubs another book, I may have to show her the door.

“I think I’ll go with your first one, here,” she finally says, drawing out the prettiest cover.

“Excellent,” I say, nodding. I gather my smock more snugly round the buttons; find the pipe with my right, and the pocket with my left. I attempt a businesslike smile.

“Thank you, Chelsea,” she smiles, holding a hand out to hug.

“Of course,” I respond, embracing. “Let me know how you like it.”

My friend departs, smiling. I close the shop door; its bell tinkles. Alone with my books, I collapse into a handy overstuffed armchair.

I pull an illicit title from a nearby shelf, immediately recalling its pleasurable side effects. I’d love to share it with another.

As I pass through the first chapter, I eagerly anticipate my next patient.

 

Let’s Stay in Bed Today

Snow1

“Snow! Snow-snow-snow-snow-snow! Mikey, snow!”

Small padding thumps descended the dirty stairs and crossed the short space to Mike’s sleeping head. Their accompanying arms pushed, insistently, at his body. Mike groaned and rolled from the thin camping cot. Cold, solid boards against his back completed his abrupt awakening.

He cracked open an eye to acknowledge the bouncing child. “No, Tommy, not snow,” he croaked, squinting.

“Yes, snow, Mikey!” Impatient toddler legs ran back across the room and up to the thick, semitransparent Plexiglas at the end of the tunnel. Mike turned his head against the floor. Tommy was pressing his face eagerly against the plastic, to see what he could never clearly see.

Good thing Dad has the access key to the door, Mike thought, then swallowed. Though, it hasn’t worked out with Dad not being here now. He pushed the thoughts away quickly, and groaned again. He stretched his hands up till they nearly brushed against the splintered boards just above his reaching arms.

“Mom! Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom!” Tommy stumbled down to push at the sleeping woman, instead.

“Mmm?” she queried.

“Mom, snow! Can we go play?” Mike sat up to watch from an obliging elbow, amused, as his brother leaned over her. Tommy’s tiny nose barely touched their mother’s. He breathed in her face expectantly.

“Mom, Mom! Mikey says it’s not snow, but it is. Can I go play?”

Her eyelids fluttered, opened. She made out the blurry, impatient face and sighed. “Oh Tommy, sweetheart. Come here.” Pulling her arms from their sleeping bag, she lifted them to either side of her crouching son.

“No, Mommy!” He pushed her arms; sat back. “I want to play in the snow! Open the door!”

“I can’t honey. I can’t.”

“Yes, you can! Make Daddy come back and open the door!” Tommy started crying, punching at her arms and bouncing on her body.

Mike quickly heaved off the floor, stooping; came over, stopped Tommy’s arms. He lifted his flailing, sobbing brother against the low ceiling.

“I’m so sorry, my Tom Thumb, we can’t. We can’t.” The tears ran slowly down their mother’s face. She sat up and reached out her arms still, wanting to hold her son.

Mike bumped against the roof boards, straining against the angry child. “Hey, Tommy,” he said, on inspiration, “Did you know snow is really cold?”

Tommy stopped resisting. “Cold?”

“Yes, very cold. Remember?” Mike saw he had Tommy’s attention. Tiny mental wheels were turning as Tommy’s face scrunched in the dim lighting. Mike loosened his grip and they sat together on the dirt-covered floorboards.

Mike continued. “Remember when we played in the snow and you got wet and your fingers hurt? They were red.” Tommy stuck a finger in his mouth, remembering.

“But I want to play,” he spoke, plaintively, around the finger. Tears ran down their mother’s face.

“I know,” Mike said. The muffled silence filled their ears as Tommy thought.

“I’m sorry, mommy,” he whispered, finally hugging her. She sniffed, wiping her nose against her shoulder, trying to smile.

“I love you, Tommy.” Together, they rocked. Their slow-moving forms slowly swept the shushing sleeping bag against the floor.

“Come help me make breakfast,” she offered. He nodded and moved to the side. Carefully, she peeled her legs free and hunched upright. They padded over to the wall of shelves.

Mike sat, watching them open the cache in the floor, pulling out the cans, hunting for the opener. Then he turned again to the end of the tunnel; the only source of natural light, watching the swirling, dancing storm of particulates drifting by.

 

Particular

Raindrops, Roses, Packages, String

Rose Rain

People ask about favorite things as a way to categorize others.

I can’t help but feel the ensuing pressure of this demand: I must say something recognizable, not too questionable, that I actually do like, and that is impressive.

Take books, for example. I take books quite often -or, I did when I had more free time. As a child I had very definite favorite authors; but, more so, I had favorite pieces of specific works I enjoyed.

In truth, that follows for nearly all creative works I encounter. At moments of life or in viewing or listening or feeling art in its various forms, I fondly recall a certain passage I encountered before.

No, those passages are not always from impressive works.

I find I think of them because, at that moment, the creator was able to express what I am feeling or thinking.

Given the limitations of language and art, that is a difficult feat.

I’m sure the questioner of a conversation does not intend to incite such anxiety in the responder. I can’t help but feel on the spot, however -that here is my one job-interview-type chance to connect with another.

Since this is a fairly impersonal medium, I began this post intending to list a few favorites. Given the hesitations I admitted to; you, the reader, have been treated to my explanations and apologies initially.

Now that we are more properly acquainted and thoroughly derailed off topic, I will return to the original idea.

Once, in high school, we were assigned to list all the things in life we loved. I cannot remember the exact parameters of the instructions, but I thought deeply about what things evoked a very specific, excited response.

There were, of course, feelings associated with intimate relationships or enjoying a thrilling amusement park.

More so, however, I focused on a sort of happy bubbling deep inside that occurred when I spoke or thought of a thing.

These are what I am most interested in listing. I’ll address books or movies at a later date.

Today, my favorite things would include the following:

  1. Blanketing snow on a cold, winter morning.
  2. Happiness lighting a child’s face.
  3. Finishing a challenging exercise.
  4. Coming home to a tidy house.
  5. Appreciation for my writing or art.
  6. The morning after rain.
  7. Running in the rain.
  8. An impending storm.
  9. Rich, delicious chocolate.
  10. Giving someone a gift s/he really wanted.
  11. Contrasts of color painted by Nature.
  12. History, particularly in old buildings or artifacts.
  13. Driving to a new place.
  14. A deep conversation with a good friend.
  15. Sprinting.

Whether you list it or not, what makes you happy? What events, thoughts, or experiences elicit a happy bubbling inside you?

Aoede’s Influence

My mind feels nothing lately. I sit here, at a computer desk, fingers poised over keys, typing emptiness.

“Ah, you have writer’s block,” you may observe. I love to disagree, but I feel the word block indicates that there was some flow previously.

In considering my lack of creative energy or inspiration, I reflect on Muses. I’ve been reflecting since reading over Mike Allegra’s and D. Wallace Peach’s characterizations of Muses. The former described his as an ice cream-stealing rat (an intelligent, domesticated one), the latter claiming hers hired a mercenary.

Mine, in the meantime, is beyond fashionably late.

She or he or it is not entirely necessary for writing. However, I need something to create what lays before you, or what fills the space between pictures of my content-writing job.

I try. I do.

The ceremony to call upon a Muse can be much like a séance, conjuring, or sacrificial ceremony. “Here, take my children,” I say to the television screen. “And, here are the five pounds I managed to lose last month,” I tell our chocolate stash. I light the computer’s candelabra and pray.

Despite my best movie marathons or sugar-splurges, my efforts usually summon Muse’s distantly-related cousin’s best friend’s significant other: Motivation.

And even she often shows up hungover. It’s time for something stronger.

Before turning to literal flames or pentagrams, I turn to my gym bag. Inside, twisted in on itself, rests my mP3 player and headphones. Besides the creative gifts we enjoy, headphones are the greatest blessing a distracted artist may ever receive.

Properly attired, I may focus on the influence of Aoede instead of the distractions of everything.

Stephenie Meyer, that author who wrote something a few years back, was one of my favorites to read. No, not her actual published works (at least, not openly.) I am referring to her honest descriptions of writing, publishing, creation, etc.

I can relate to her, since both of us have at least three boys. Did you know she also used music? That she has a playlist posted?

As mentioned at the end of the lame, rambling autobiography (nobody got that far, did they?), I can’t write without music. This, combined with the fact that writing Twilight was a very visual, movie-like experience, prompted me to collect my favorite Twilight songs into a sort of soundtrack for the book. This list is not chiseled in granite; it transforms now and again. But, for the moment, here’s the music I hear in my head while reading the book. (stepheniemeyer.com)

Her website has songs for Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.

We’ll need to talk more about tempting Muses in other fashions. Perhaps you even know a secret incantation.

In the meantime, what are your favorite tracks to play for inspiration?

Hello, My Name Is Actually

Hi. *Shakes your hand* My name is Chelsea. I’m not too fond of it, but haven’t found a better replacement.

Sometimes I try a different name. I speak it, softly, in my mind. I reach deep within, testing whether my soul feels a long-lost connection. Do I sense recognition; a neuropathic reaction?

Always, as with my current placeholder, I feel nothing.

That may have gotten serious, and fairly quickly. Sorry about that. In most of my writing I prefer some humor. In social situations, however, I have caused a few awkward pauses, followed by, “You’re a deep thinker.”

Naturally, I reflect, “Do you not think?” No, I do not say that sort of thing aloud -most of the time.

Though motivated by authenticity, honesty, information, and openness regarding vital issues; I retain a discretionary wall when it comes to relatives, my location, and deeply personal information.

I will write openly about depression, but keep a respectful distance from family affairs.

Again, heavy stuff. I have a tendency to want a certain thorough sketch of my person at first introductions. I seek complete understanding of my character and motivations, though best attempts will never be perfect.

People categorize as they wish, read the words they wish, surround themselves with like-minded peoples, and avoid the unknown unless they actively seek it.

For these reasons, I choose to finally admit my membership in a few common categories waaaay down here.

Firstly, that I am a mother. A married mother. I have children that I birthed and I attempt to raise. Since it influences my writing and observations on the subject of parenting, I specifically have four boys.

Secondly, I am religious. I am also not religious. The two play out in desires to write more sanitary observations, while understanding and agreeing with logical scientific ideas. I’d like to say the two are happily married, making love-eyes forever across a candlelit table. The truth is closer to them being married in general, with all the real-life disagreements therein.

At this point, if you’re still reading, you will learn that I own no pets currently. I briefly had a dog. A life goal of mine was to own several dogs, perhaps on a ranch somewhere. Then, I married an anti-dog man. No, I don’t blame him or think he’s odd. Yes, dogs are stinky, expensive, difficult to train, hairy, and were too much like a permanent toddler for me at the time.

Actually, I lied somewhat. I just remembered we have a Betta fish named Toothless. He’s black with purple shading.

I want my blog to be as unlimited as my writing desires tend to be: sometimes a poem; today a life reflection; a quirky story outlining a friend’s foibles another day. That may be a tad difficult to navigate.

My ultimate goal is to be world-famous, naturally. My realistic goal is to connect with a community of writers; to appreciate others, and be appreciated in return.

This is all rather deep. Perhaps I should have stuck with the usual If you could go anywhere..? question.

Even that would have landed you with Perhaps the moon

Chelsea by a rock

 

Kick It up a Notch, AKA How to Improve a Snippet of Writing

Hello, class, and welcome to another session of writing instruction. Today we will be discussing that little extra flavoring that will take your excerpt from blasé to at least palatable.

In layman’s terms, we’re going to start with a frozen pepperoni pizza and make it a meal from Mickey D’s. With practice, we may go as classy as Texas Roadhouse.

We’re going to need a lame sentence. No, not that one I just wrote. Or any of these descriptive ones.
Sheesh! You’re so literal!
How about, “When he saw her face, he knew he was in love.

Woman lights

This is not a terrible sentence. For one thing, it has my first step:

1. Please ensure that your subject matter is interesting.
Something readers want to read is the somewhat-necessary skeleton we need to even start improving that sucker.
Besides our example, you can go with topics of Science Fiction (The alien moved closer to the frightened child), Dystopian (No one had eaten for days since The Great Famine), Horror (She heard the heavy footsteps drawing closer, though she saw no one), or Fantasy (Erglefigman took the Staff of Woidjkin boldly, saying the magic words…).

2. Name your characters. If you’re running with that fantasy idea, name him/her/it with a more simple title (please!).
Does this idea seem daunting? You have the internet; use a name-generator.
Applied to our example, we have, “When Steve saw Elisa, he knew he was in love.
Yes, I used the name generator.

3. Don’t be afraid of other words. You’re a writer: words are the prismatic expression you splash upon a ready canvas.
Unsure what to say? As I have already mentioned in other How-To’s, Thesaurus Man has got your back. Don’t leave him hanging.
Looking up “saw,” “knew,” and “love,” we can spice things up to, “When Steve glanced at Elisa, he realized he was smitten.

4. Show, don’t tell. Yep, you’ve heard this one. Seriously -you read it three seconds ago.
Yes, sometimes you need to tell. A full-length novel where every single action was described instead of named would be torturous.
Instead of “He stubbed his toe, dropping the pizza sauce all over his father’s sleeve,” you might have, “A loud exclamation fell from Todd’s lips as pain spread upwards from his injured toe. His father, meanwhile, felt the stinging heat and saucy redness of pizza sauce spread upwards from his shoulder.” Yes, it’s more interesting -but, only in some ways. Always writing like that would be laborious to the writer and unclear to the reader.
So: show, but don’t be annoying about it. We’ll settle on keeping what we have and adding a sentence of detail. “The softly glowing lights reflected from her cupped hands to glint, temptingly, in her brown eyes. When Steve glanced at Elisa, just then, he realized he was smitten.”

5. Add dialogue. Do your characters have the ability to talk? Then, they should.
Vocalizations are normal; we all express ourselves. They can, and would, be used during action scenes. They need to be sprinkled in naturally around adjectives, reactions, descriptions, etc.
A conversation can also be used to show, not tell and thesaurusize your story.
The softly glowing lights reflected from her cupped hands to glint, temptingly, in her brown eyes.
‘Yes?’ Elisa asked. She’d noted his glance.
‘Um,’ Steve replied. He realized he was smitten.”

Man Phone

6. Inject your flavor of writing.
Everyone has a writing style, a flavor, a way of expression. If you feel you still haven’t stumbled upon this illusive thing, you’re in the same boat as many writers. In fact, I’m certain we’re about cruise ship-sized over here.
I am equally certain each artist has one, and that it will be uncovered the more one practices one’s art. You will lean to using certain patterns, words, jokes, phrasing, or anglophilic references.
Since I am the one writing this, our example has had my flavor this whole time.
Someone else creating a story might go with word patterns, nonsense terms, different ways to interrupt the actions and descriptions, or other things said and observed.

7. Go a tad over the top with characteristics, actions, settings, etc.
I mentioned several of the writing steps we’ve gone over so far in a previous post, including the advice to be specific. Being specific is important, as is writing believably, so the story is relatable. However, the general public also likes extremes of personality and actions.

For example, all of the characters in Harry Potter are distinct. Even minor ones have odd foibles like a weird goat fetish.
The adventures are outlandish, like allowing a 12-year-old to face a full-grown wizard after other deadly dangers. But, people ate it up.

On the flip side is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. If not for the audio version, I would have quickly lost track of which person was penning which letter and why that mattered. I found myself wishing for more differences of personality.

I’ll add a bit more to ours, and then leave it to cool on the windowsill. Hopefully it’ll garner a few stars of a passing critic’s famished review.

The softly glowing lights reflected from her cupped hands to glint, temptingly, in her brown eyes. Night sounds of distant traffic far below joined the background conversations of party guests. Steve felt frozen in sound, feeling, and time.

‘Yes?’ Elisa demanded. She’d noted his glance, and wondered at his expression.

‘Um,’ Steve replied. He realized he was smitten.

Pop! The first forgotten bulb broke against the patio floor near Elisa’s bare right foot. Pop! Clunk!, then a swishing coil of overlapping noises echoed from the walls and stairs nearby as the remaining lights slid from her careless arms.

Unencumbered now, she drew closer, stepping over the discarded strand. Steve saw her dainty feet illuminated from bulbs below as she stepped; noted her slight waver, her impending nearness, and the way a sudden rooftop wind pulled at her black skirt.

Steve knew life would never be normal again, and that he would never regret the inevitable upset. His eyes found hers, even darker now. She walked to stand right in front of him; poor, hypnotized fool.”

Ascension

Girl

She lightly licked her pointer finger, her pink stub of a tongue barely flicking out. Holding it aloft in imitation of her grandfather’s memory, she scrunched her miniature features in serious concentration. She pulled the small finger and fist back to her body. Looking determinedly solemn, she nodded to the setting sun.

She glanced down to her other hand; its grip tightened reflexively, pulling purple plastic wrinkles tightly toward it. Purple streamers of plastic rustled in anticipation.

Stooping, she used her licked-finger hand to scramble a spool into its too-small palm. Looping curves of cheap string threatened to come away between her fingers. Regardless, her grip was certain.

She stared ahead. Taking in the moment, her grandfather had called it. She breathed deeply in, raising her tiny shoulders up to her ears to ensure it was the deepest moment-taking-in possible.

Her breath came out dramatically, lowering her shoulders and entire upper half clumsily. She paused. Then, she ran.

Dandelion spores scattered, grass blades bent, and a languishing dog yawned near its park bench owner. Her stubby legs drove her rapidly down and up the small rising knolls of the field, convincing her of an immense speed.

Now! Her left arm flung wildly up and behind her shoulder, releasing its purple quarry. The flailing plastic tails flew behind her ungainly man-made bird. They struggled and whipped and bobbed in the erratic running rhythm.

The kite caught, tugging at her right hand and its death-gripped string. She kept moving as fast as she could, nearly outstripping a few passing, drifting butterflies. They floated translucently away, as their sunset meeting was rudely interrupted by the large, purple, flapping object.

No butterfly nor bird ever bobbed and wove such a barely buoyant path before. The purple kite fluttered and flopped obediently. It followed closely behind her pumping legs, her taut string, her stubborn grip.

Let out some string, her grandfather’s gruff voice directed her mind. Stumbling slightly, she loosed some string from the matted bunch inside her clammy hand. The freed clump reached the flapping purple animal tailing her; straightening, liberating, lifting.

She felt the tug of success. Chancing a quick backward glance, she saw her kite rising, rising!

Stop! Her furious toddler-run wobbled to a halt. She immediately turned, releasing yet more string and running it through both hands. That’s it, keep her steady, grandfather complimented.

Orange-red beams from the Westward sun glowed up the bobbing string. The plastic purple kite flew high and sure in the light evening winds. She pulled a few sweat-wiped strands of blonding hair from across her flushed face, immediately re-gripping the twisting, pulling string.

She looked up at her kite. Her whole face smiled.

From a higher vantage point amongst the painted clouds, Grandfather looked down. The glorious rays spread across the entire expanse as he smiled in return.

 

Ascend