Why Should Authors Care About Screenwriting?

By Trai Cartwright

This is part one of Trai's six-part monthly series.

Why in the world would a fiction writer care about screenwriting? Turns out, films are a prime educational resource for novelists, and whether you’re a fictioner or a filmite, our communal and cultural understanding of our craft is drawn from both realms of storytelling.

My background is in both realms of world building, the 50-foot high visual and the black-and-white textual. I love them both and work and play in both. However, thought I’d approach this blog as a map of my adventures as a new screenwriting resource in Denver. And what’s more appropriate than introducing myself in the story structure way?

Act 1 – Meet our main character: a teenaged refugee of Fort Collins, passionate about theater and novel writing. I went on to graduate from a highly esteemed but overpriced film school with a new passion: screenwriting! Destined to be in the world of storytelling, I embarked for Los Angeles.

Trigger Incident – Landing a job with an old school Hollywood moviemaking pro! I was mentored by an Academy Award-winning mensch who taught me the ways of the Force: how to use kindness and enthusiasm to get the best out of writers. He optioned one of my own screenplays, let me develop the scripts our company was interested in, and made me believe in myself. On to Act 2! Lots of practice, lots of dead ends, produced a few movies, worked for some major studios, always learning, learning, learning…

False Resolution – The head of CAA, the biggest talent agency in the world, loves one of my scripts! He’s going to “send it out,” and when he sends something out, careers start. It’s my big break!

Oh wait. He was just forced out by the young guns nipping at his heels. My script has been “burned.” He’s out; so am I.

Things turn dark. LA begins to implode. The writers strike, coupled with the burst of their freakishly out-sized housing bubble and the downward-spiraling economy—it all equals no jobs for writers. Or anyone else. No work to be found in the industry I love.

It’s the end of Act 2 and my lowest point…or the beginning of something amazing?

Act 3 – A move to Colorado, my home state, results in levels of professional growth and community-building I’ve never experienced. As a teacher of both screenwriting and fiction writing, I get to connect with hundreds of writers, teach in a myriad of classrooms, edit dozens of manuscripts. I’m having an amazing time, and really developing my skills on all levels. Don’t tell anyone in LA that working outside of Hollywood rocks this hard. They might get wise and get out, too!

Which brings us to The Sequel:

Act 1 – Making the big move to Denver, a storied land where many wildly accomplished and talented writers live and learn and publish. I’ve just finished a screenplay that’ll fly back over the mountains shortly and bang some drums, and I’m nearly done with my first YA book. Could I be more excited to land in the Mile High City at this crucial juncture in my own writing life?

I could, because Denver is also home to a Top 25 Film School, where I’ll be teaching future filmmakers how to get their voices heard. Connecting to the amazing film resources here is important, so I’m meeting folks from the Denver Film Society and the Denver Screenwriters.

But I’m still fiercely in love with Fiction, so I’m also looking for ways to connect to more novelists. How lucky are we that grounding this community is the amazing Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. What fun you all have, what joy you bring to the study of our craft! I’ve already had some terrific experiences with you all and can’t wait to continue. I’ll see you at the conference in September, for sure. Come find this old Hollywood hack so we can continue this conversation about our love of story.

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Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.

Rolling Out the RMFW Blog

Announcing a new opportunity for members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers to educate, promote, share, and meet other members.

The blog launches August 1st with an outstanding lineup of regular contributors including Mike Befeler, Karen Duvall, Julie Kazimer, Susan Spann, Kerry Schafer, Katriena Knights, Nicole Disney, Jeffe Kennedy and more. We have open days on the schedule to accommodate guest bloggers from our unpublished, newly published, or veteran members. Watch the RMFW Yahoo! Group and the newsletter for more information.

Please join us this Thursday for the first post in a six-part monthly series from Trai Cartwright.

NEW RMFW Online Classes

DuvallYour Novel's
First Five Pages

Presented by Karen Duvall

2 Week Course

Start Date: Monday, August 5

End Date: Sunday, August 18

$25 Member Registration

$30 Non-Member Registration

It's vital that your novel hook readers within the first 5 pages because that's what it takes to reel them in and keep them reading. Make those pages count from the very first sentence.

In this two week course, we'll cover methods to aid you in creating the start of a compelling tale that will engage readers and convince them to stay for the long haul.

Areas that will be covered include:

  • Frequent mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Start the story in the right place
  • Introduce pivotal characters your reader will connect with
  • The importance of revealing genre right away
  • Make all 5 senses count
  • Ground the reader in your setting
  • How voice determines your story's tone
  • Establish the inciting incident
  • Create tension and conflict right away
  • The importance of clarity and context

Lessons will be sent three times a week and homework will be assigned. Student interaction and questions are encouraged.

Karen Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight's Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was recently released in Luna's 'Til The World Ends anthology alongside the work of NYT and USA Today best selling authors Ann Aguirre and Julie Kagawa.

Karen has presented writing workshops for a number of conference venues including Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Bend Christian Writers Conference, and the Central Oregon Writers Guild.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.

July Program: A Discussion About Investigations

David KeilJuly Program

A Discussion About Investigations

Presented by David Keil

Saturday, July 13, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Lakewood Public Library
10200 West 20th Avenue, Lakewood, CO 80215

Come learn everything you ever wanted to know about private investigation from a veteran investigator! David Keil has been a practicing private investigator for 30 years. Over his long career, Mr. Keil has been involved with the investigation of all manner of criminal and civil cases, including crimes of violence, international drug trafficking, theft, sex crimes, and bank robbery. His current emphasis is on white collar crime, including complex financial fraud, such as banking, brokerage and real estate schemes. Mr. Keil's efforts have helped recover millions of dollars of victim losses in some of the largest Ponzi Scheme cases in US history.

Working both as a victim's advocate and as a criminal defense investigator, his client roster includes many highly successful and colorful con artists. Mr. Keil is also a lifelong reader of mystery and crime fiction, and has lent his technical expertise as an investigator to several published authors.

Denver Monthly Programs are free to both members and non-members. They are usually two hours long on a Saturday morning or afternoon at a public library in either Jefferson County or Denver. Topics vary. No registration is required. Questions? Contact programs@rmfw.org. Check out the Events page on the RMFW website for more information about our programs and classes.