Category Archives: Personalities

Candyland: The Movie

For those of you who may not know, my dark, very disturbing novel Candyland is currently in development to be a motion picture. Rusty Nixon wrote a wonderful screenplay and Scott Peake is set to direct. The film is cast with amazing actors and the executive producer is now in fund-raising mode.

How can you help? Please go to the www.thecandylandmovie.com website, watch the trailer and then connect to the Facebook site, click “Like” and post a comment. Those who know about these things tell me that buzz is important in film fundraising, and I’d love to see this work translated to film.

If you’d like to read the source material, Candyland is available for the Kindle.

Let me know what you think.

1 Comment

Filed under Personalities

Rightmindedness

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to that word: Rightmindedness.

We have a thousand opportunities every day to choose our mindset. If we get our minds right, we can choose happiness, joy, freedom, love, light, loyalty, sunshine.

Or, if something we don’t like happens, we can allow it to color our whole day, our month, our year.  A moment’s temptation can throw us off a diet, for example, and in a few days, all the good hard work that’s been done is erased. Or, we could choose to not let that happen. We could choose to put our minds right again, and not let a small slip throw our world into chaos.

The same goes for fear and anxiety. We can let it run our lives, or we can live with self-forgiveness and let old conflicts go. When new situations arise, we have the power to choose our reaction to them. If we behave ourselves, what do we care if others misbehave?

I read an article about how human minds seek out similarities. We like finding coincidences. We match up things that go together. We say things like: He looks just like so-and-so, except for…”  And that also goes for series of events. In one day, we could have a flat tire, have to wait so long at a professional’s office that we miss another appointment, get some bad news and have to deal with a miscommunication. Each of those things has the potential to ruin our day, if we let it, especially if we run down the litany of everything that went wrong to the spouse or loved one.

Instead, we should run down all the great things that happened. All the miracles that we’ve bunched together, all the coincidences, all the moments of synchronicity and delight. All the good things that people did for us, all the nice things people said about each other.

We’re not in control of much in our lives, but we are in control of our attitude. I know people who are negative, and I know people who are positive. I’d rather hang with the positive folks. The socially fragrant ones help me enjoy life.

I’m working on getting my mind right, one decision at a time, because that will make life a lot more fun. And it will also make the world a better place.

1 Comment

Filed under Beauty, connections, Discipline, Friends, Fun, goals, Goodness, Honesty, Joy, peace, Personalities, regrets, relationships, Spirituality

A New Year, A New Goal

I’m a pretty average American. I grew up in the Midwest with all the insults and prejudices that everybody else did. Fewer than some, more than others. Pretty average.

Those of you who have followed this blog, know that as a result of an inspirational conversation with my friend Terry Barrett, I’ve adopted her ritual of naming each year as it dawns. 2008 was the year of Hesed, or lovingkindness. 2009 was the year of Tao. All year long, I contemplate those concepts and try to work them into my life.

2010 is my year of Namaste. That isn’t really the correct word, as “Namaste” is more of a greeting, or a salute, but my intention is to see the God that indwells every single person I meet. I no longer want to feel threatened or afraid of those who are different from me, who dress differently, are a different color, who speak a different language or who have a religion with which I’m unfamiliar. I want to get directly to the heart of the matter and see who people are at their core.

Most of us are like scared little children, stepping into a new day every day, a scary day, doing things we’ve never done before. Even if 99% of our day is the same as the day before, there’s still an element of the unknown. And that little itch of fear makes us act out in anger, resentment, impatience, unkindness… you get my drift.

I want to see past all that smokescreen in myself and everyone else this year. I want to encourage the god within me to commune with the god within you. I want our angels to go out to lunch together and share a couple of laughs at our expense. I want to be a better person every day, every day, every day.

And so I name the new year Namaste: I honor the God within you, and I welcome the gifts 2010 will surely bring.

3 Comments

Filed under Beauty, connections, Goodness, peace, Personalities, Possibilities, relationships, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, Truth, Writing, years

A New Book Contract!

Contracts are due to land on my desk today for the publication of my latest book, Martini Moon.

This is sweet for me for a variety of reasons.

First, I love this book, and am more than delighted that I will be able to share it with my small, deeply-disturbed fan base.

Secondly, this indicates to me that the economy is on the upswing. Not only did the Dow close above 10,000 yesterday, and a headline today reads “Recession Ends in 79 Metro Areas,” but I got a book contract.  That means my publisher is investing in me and my readers, libraries, and the book buying public in general. We will not let them down.  Publishing provides jobs, from artists to copyeditors to box manufacturers to bookstore baristas.

And, of course, the sale of this book provides both public and private confirmation that I’m writing what people want to read. One person told me one time that I write “grim stories about unattractive people.” This is true. I do not write Danielle Steele books. But the people I write about are the people I know about. They’re real people. Real people have grim stories and many of them are unattractive. But they all have the spark of the beautiful inside them. This story, a mystery, is also about the little guy fighting city hall for what’s right.

I don’t have a publication date yet for Martini Moon. Most likely this time next year. Stay tuned, either here or on my website at www.elizabethengstrom.com.

I’ll let you  know when the launch party is.

2 Comments

Filed under Beauty, editors, My New Novel, Personalities, Promotion, Reading, Writing

A Simple Approach to Plot

Fiction is about character growth that comes as a result of people in trouble. When the trouble is resolved, when the character has learned something about himself, or changed something about himself, the story is over.

Writing fiction is a balancing act of character and plot.  Too much character can corrupt the pace of the story; too much plot, and the reader loses anyone to care about. 

Remember this: the reader must have a rooting interest in the central character (the protagonist).  We must care about this person, even if it’s to dislike or despise him.  Without an emotional connection between the reader and the protagonist there is no story.

Whether you’re plotting a short story or a novel, both need all the requisite elements of fiction: a protagonist, an antagonist, and a major point of conflict. The bigger, more complex the conflict, the stronger the characters. Your story is only as strong as your antagonist. 

Your protagonist is always a reluctant hero. He is flawed, which is to say he is human. He is dragged out of his comfortable world into uncertainty. He changes internally because he is forced to look at his flaws as a result of the conflict presented by the antagonist. This conflict is the stimulation to his character growth. There should be internal conflict and external conflict in every scene.

Fiction is comprised of three acts: Act One: the Setup, Act Two: the Complication, and Act Three: the Resolution.

Act One shows the protagonist before the trouble starts, in his comfortable world, but with myriad problems. Act One ends when the protagonist is so tired of avoiding the impending problem that he believes it is easier to fix the problem than to continue to avoid it. This is when he embarks upon his Quest. By the end of Act One, all the major players have been introduced, as well as the major point of conflict.

Act One places the conflict into the world of the protagonist.  It is here the reader sees the impossibility of the situation, how high a mountain must be climbed.  As we meet the players he is to interact with, we make judgments about these people—are they useful to the protagonist, or do they add to his many conflicts?  The central conflict materializes before us (and the protagonist) and may increase in complexity because of who the protagonist is, and the people around him, and what’s being asked of him. Act One is the building block upon which this story is going to stand.  It’s the first date.  You want to get it right.

Act Two complicates every tiny point of conflict introduced in Act One. At the end of Act Two, the protagonist and reader alike are certain he will never be able to fix the problem. At the end is the Darkest Moment.

In Act Two think: development.  This is where the conflict lives and breathes, and by doing so, takes air out of the room the protagonist desperately needs.  This is where we, the reader, learn more about the individual relationships with the characters introduced in Act One.  These complicate matters for the protagonist, but aren’t necessarily bad.  A love may deepen.  A personal history may be revealed.

The Darkest Moment is where all the strings become so entangled we fear they are knotted beyond repair.  How can the protagonist possibly get past this emotional or physical obstacle, this impediment?  The protagonist is crushed.  We are desperate to find a solution, only to realize one doesn’t exist.  Houdini is in the chains and under water, and the key he is supposed to have hidden down his throat has been swallowed.

Immediately after the Darkest Moment, the character has an epiphany, an inspiration, or draws upon something he remembers or has experienced in his past.  A Discovery. This kicks off Act Three, when the conflicts begin to resolve.  The resolution of these secondary conflicts is critical here, to make way for the operatic aria—the Climax.  This needs to fly solo.  In the climax, he deals, once and for all, with the central external conflict, and he takes a good look at his internal flaws. This is when he either succumbs to his failings or overcomes them. The reader is cheering for him to overcome his flaws, but characters do whatever they do. The point is that he must look at himself and be changed by what he sees.  This will allow him to resolve the conflict (or not).

In the final analysis, readers will remember what happens to the protagonist internally, which is ultimately more important than what happens to the external conflict.  The Discovery has led to resolution of the Conflict, has led to wisdom.  Flawed wisdom, perhaps, but a wisdom we can understand makes sense as a logical outcome of the quest.

A story can be told from any point of view, can include any number of characters, can span any length of time, can host a number of subplots. Stick to one good guy, one bad guy, and one main point of conflict. Give your characters passion, memorable names, quirks, angers, frustrations and depth. Include lots of sensory imagery, so the reader can be in the scene with the character, and reveal your character’s nature through the use of facial expressions and gestures. Differentiate the characters from each other, and from you. Give them a serious problem, throw them off the deep end, and watch them work their way out of it, given whom they are and what they do.

Strongly suggested reading: The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Leave a comment

Filed under Personalities, relationships, Short Stories, Writing

What Makes a Film Great?

I just saw Star Trek, and I’m still high.

Let me start by saying that I’ve been a big fan of the original series (yes, I’m that old) and all its syndicated reruns for all these years. I enjoyed NG, but never really warmed to it the way I did Kirk and Spock and the crew. I own all the movies, and my hour really came when Picard and Kirk were on horseback together, Picard looking pale and fey and Kirk robust and an obvious horseman. Not that they were competing, except in my mind, but there was no competition for my affections. I’ve been very clear on this blog what a fan I am of William Shatner; when I look at his face, I feel like I’m looking at my big brother. I am a true fan of his entire body of work.

So when I heard they were coming out with a Genesis-type film, I got scared. How could they capture the real affection and amusement of the original cast? How could they come up with a story line that befit such a monumental task? How could they cast such important roles? I know that you know that I’m not the only one who knows pretty much everything about these people.

And they pulled it off, in what appeared to be effortless fashion. The casting was superb. The writing perfect. The effects breath-taking. The bad guys truly bad. This film was a thrilling ride.

Last summer I blogged about the Sex and the City movie, how I had grown accustomed to the well-wrought women and their relationship, and how the movie–while I was nervous about that, too–pulled it all together and became a brilliant piece of filmmaking. I am scared that they’re moving too fast with those girls to put out another movie so soon, but we’ll see what happens.

Regardless, I can not wait for the next Star Trek film, especially if it involves the same cast and crew, because they’ve got it down.

If you haven’t seen Star Trek, see it without delay, whether you’re a fan or not.

The only sad note is that Shatner didn’t recite the famous lines: “Space…the final frontier…”

Leave a comment

Filed under Fun, Personalities, relationships, Writing

Getting Hung Up on an Attitude

I’m stuck.

I have a small, smoldering resentment and it has sucked all the fun out of my life.  The thing that is so infuriating is that this situation is insignificant. Tiny. Teenie, even. And I’ve given it the power to interfere with my  joy. Last night, it even interfered with my sleep.

So it’s time to take action. I know precisely what I need to do to put paid to this situation, but I have to say, it’s taken me a couple of weeks to realize what I need to do. This situation needed to simmer. I needed to get past all the angry words that were backed up in my throat and my head. I needed to realize why my little girl inside was saying, “But what about me?” which is what all angry words really say.

So I’ve taken responsibility for my part in this teensie little thing that has disrupted my serenity, and today I take steps to rectify the situation. It will take a couple of days, actually, but I can see my way through it, and I won’t be acting in haste, or in anger, or from an indefensible position of mock outrage.

Wow. How adult of me. It’s those twelve steps, you know, that work in my life when I’m too out of control to work them.

I may not have control over much in this life, but I do have control over my attitude. And right now, my attitude sucks.

So I’m going to fix it.

2 Comments

Filed under Personalities, Possibilities, Prayer, relationships, Resentment, Spirituality, Truth, Twelve Steps