Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Would You Wear This Jacket to the Movies?

EMOTIONAL IMMERSION. Do we need this artificially heightened for us when we go to the movies? Shouldn’t the movie itself be enough?

Researchers have developed a jacket lined with vibration motors—64 actuators that rest against the wearer’s arms and torso—designed to induce relevant sensations and emotions while watching a movie.

Product developers want the jacket to connect the wearer more fully to the character, such as feeling his or her survival anxiety. For instance, the jacket can cause a shiver to run up your spine or other sensations related to a fight scene.

The goal is to study “the effects of touch on a movie viewer’s emotional response to what the characters are experiencing.”

I can imagine this jacket becoming popular and, with more research and refinements, becoming ever more sophisticated. One comment on an article at IEEE Spectrum cited a “scent collar” developed for the army that could also be used for more sensory realism.

Being the sensitive type (I feel too much already), I would not wear this jacket in the hope of spiking my adrenalin response to action scenes.

(I realize I’m in the minority here ;~)

However, if the jacket could induce greater levels of the emotions I do want more of—inspiration, love, gratitude, romance, creativity—then count me in!


See the jacket and read more details


MILLI THORNTON is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She blogs about writing and creativity at

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Questions They Will Ask You After the Pitch

THIS WEEK I watched a DVD called How to Pitch and Sell Your Screenplay.

The DVD was helpful in its analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of live pitches given at the New York Pitch Exchange—but, for me, it also raised more questions.

Despite my “I can do this” attitude and plan of action from my previous post (Fear of Pitching), I’m pretty darn nervous about this whole pitching thing.

Let’s say I manage to make my memorized pitch sound natural, vibrant and compelling (still workin’ on that) and someone actually calls me. After I’ve delivered the rehearsed stuff, according to Laurie Scheer from the DVD they’re likely to ask me questions I don’t have any scintillating answers for.

Who’s the market?

Anyone who enjoyed Back to the Future, Romancing the Stone and the kind of story—like Some Kind of Wonderful—that features a love triangle where the unlikely one turns out to the true love.

Will it go over like a lead balloon if I cite movie classics from so long ago?

Who do you see starring in your movie?

First time I’ve come across this. Everything else I’ve heard or read warns about trying to foist your desired cast upon weary agents, producers and directors.

In my head as I was writing I saw John Cusack in his mid-twenties and Mary Stuart Masterson in her early twenties. But I’m sure that old-fashioned answer won’t fly!

So how do I find the perfect actors to fit the roles? Watch more movies, of course . . . but it could take time to find the right actors.

Hmm, should I have entered those screenplay contests? The idea was to live my dream—but when it boils down to the marketing maybe I’m just not ready.

Why this story now? Why should we produce this?

Laurie suggests that your answer should be about how your movie
(a) reflects something in society, or
(b) has new entertainment value.
My movie does not handle any deep and meaningful societal issues or dwell on the cutting edge of special effects, super-heroes or violence. It’s simply a lot of fun and—I believe—very entertaining.

It’s the kind of make-believe world you can lose yourself in for the pleasure of putting your problems on the shelf for two hours.

How do I say this without sounding clich├ęd?

Who are you? What is your brand?

I’m used to thinking of myself as the Fear of Writing lady who enjoys helping other writers overcome their inner blocks and reignite their imaginations. This is my first screenplay and I don't have a solid idea yet for how to “brand” myself with it.

It’s a time travel romance—but even though I passionately love my story it doesn’t break down to Who I Am as a writer.

Or does it?

I enjoy fun stories full of irony but not too much violence. Does that sound too much like Screenwriter Lite?

How does your content work for other media (eg. cable, wireless)?


I have not watched TV for over 20 years. It just doesn’t appeal to me. Of course, it would be death to mention that sentiment! So how do I get around my complete ignorance on this subject?

Same goes for wireless. In fact, I’m not even sure what she means by that. Is she talking about the new media, where characters from shows are said to come to life on the Internet with their own blog or social media presence?
If you have experience with pitching (or even if you don’t!) and can shed any light on these issues, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

MILLI THORNTON is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She blogs about writing and creativity at

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fear of Pitching

MY FIRST SCRIPT is waiting patiently for me to mother it.

Over time, this mothering will involve many things, but the major monster under the bed right now is learning to pitch.

I’m an introvert who would rather sit alone and write than have to sell my work verbally to jaded industry people who’ve heard it all before.

But mothers are people who will do anything and everything they can to give their children all the advantages in life. Right?

OK, so let’s rephrase that “I’m an introvert, blah, blah, blah” stuff to:

I *can* do this.

Today’s post will mention a few of the things I’m currently doing to overcome my fear of pitching.


After reading even one book on pitching, this would seem like a no-brainer . . . but apparently not.

In Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds,Michael Hauge interviews executives on pitching. Time and again, these executives bemoan writers who

(a) pitch with no focus
(b) ramble and take up too much time
(c) don’t know their story
(d) try to cram in too many details.

I saw this illustrated in dramatic terms when I watched the DVD How to Pitch and Sell Your Screenplay.

Pitch expert Laurie Scheer analyzed pitches given at the New York Pitch Exchange. Even without Laurie’s analysis, I could see many of the writers getting themselves into troubling by failing to know and rehearse their pitches ahead of time.
You must be “off-paper” when pitching. Meaning you have to memorize the pitch. That being said, I usually took cue cards with me as a safety net during the pitch. The pitch must be delivered like you’ve just thought of it, not like you’re repeating lines from a memorized pitch.

—Sharon Y. Cobb, screenwriter and author of False Confessions of a True Hollywood Screenwriter

If I spot an opportunity to go out of my comfort zone—enough to inspire rather than intimidate me—I try to jump on it.

For instance, yesterday I recorded an intro/outro for Guardians, a podcast novel by Twitter friend Kimi Alexandre. This was easy and fun to do. Kimi provided the short scripts; all I had to do was call her voice mail and do the recording.

I rehearsed ahead of time and did not stumble or sound nervous (even though I was a little nervous about the prospect of hearing my voice on someone else’s podcast).

Seems like such a small thing in retrospect, but it did boost my confidence!

Not only that, Kimi now wants to interview me for her blog ( So I’ll have another fun—albeit slightly nervous-making—baby step to continue the momentum.

A little bit of nerves = good. Adds extra energy to the mix!


I’ve been to two meetings here in my new city (Youngstown Executive Toastmasters) and will make my first speech, the “Icebreaker” in May.

The Oh, Pinon chapter of the Santa Fe Toastmasters helped me greatly back in 2001 when I wanted to become a writing workshop presenter.

An article on my Website, The Author in Public: Gaining Confidence, chronicles my adventures with the warm and wonderful people of the Oh, Pinon Club.

Yes, Toastmasters is another fabulous way of taking baby steps. Granted, giving a speech is more like stepping into the deep end. But the people of Toastmasters are so friendly and supportive—and their evaluations are so positive and helpful—that this is still one of the best ways to get comfortable speaking face to face.


Got fear of pitching? Or perhaps tips to help writers who want to become better pitchers? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts and ideas.


MILLI THORNTON is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She blogs about writing and creativity at

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Crazy Writing Dream That Came True

LIKE MANY FOLKS, I spent years watching movies as an armchair screenwriter.

As the credits rolled, my husband was used to hearing me shout either “Darn that was good! I wish I’d written that!” or (in familiar tones of disgust), “Even I could write a better movie than that.”

In 2001, I made a teensy start on this reckless dream by writing a treatment—an outline using the venerable three-act structure.

I could have gone on from there. I certainly had the tools at hand. Final Draft scriptwriting software, Sid Field’s Screenwriting Workshop (video set), Hollywood Creative Directory (52nd Edition), Formatting Your Screenplay by Robert Reichmann and Story by Robert McKee.

Plus, I was already a writer.

But I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t see myself as a “screenwriter” and I didn’t have enough faith that I could do it.

Later I even gave away the software, the video course and the various books in a contest I ran to help promote my book. You can see the winner, Dawn Hunt, on the Fear of Writing blog (Three Very Happy Prize Winners).

It wasn’t until years later—2007, to be exact—that I rummaged around in my computer files, opened that cobwebby ol’ treatment and commenced to get my hands dirty as a screenwriter.

(Yep, I had to buy new software.)

What caused me to try again?

That little tidbit (and many others) will be revealed when I launch my work-in-progress, an e-book entitled How I Wrote My First Screenplay in 29 Days.

For now, I want to cut to the chase and announce that on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 around 10:15 p.m. EST my dream finally came true.

After tons of good, old-fashioned hard work, a huge learning curve, lots of fun (as well as the occasional “dark night of the soul”). . .


. . . I submitted my finished screenplay to the contest I’d chosen to act as my self-imposed deadline, The 2009 PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, a mere one day ahead of their April 1 deadline.


Was I happy? You bet your sweet bippy!

It’s just that the happiness was buried under mountains of exhaustion.

But isn’t that the way it oughta be? Any dream worth having is worth getting a little exhausted for.

The issue of whether screenwriters are crazy to want to live this particular dream will be discussed in future posts.

And, now, please join me in a glass of champagne, merlot, beer, sparkling grape juice, cactus juice or your beverage of choice.

Here in my house, it’s TIME TO CELEBRATE!

P.S. In case you’re wondering—No! I did not pull off the entire process in 29 days. If I had, you'd need to suspect a script that stinks of sloppiness and lack of development. But I did write my first draft in 29 days. Achieving that showed me what I was capable of and motivated me for the work ahead.

If you’d like to know more about the e-book, please sign up for the RSS or email updates for this blog. Scroll to the top and look in the left column.