Hereâ€™s a guest post I did over at the Kill Zone. Writing an original screenplay is hard enough. But adapting one from a novella is a whole new kind of crazy. Read an excerpt here.
Recently, I took a break from writing fiction to focus on screenwriting. Currently, Iâ€™m adapting my latest novella, Brandonâ€™s Last Words, as a feature screenplay.
If youâ€™re wondering why anyone in their right mind would take on something like this, itâ€™s simpleâ€”I live in LA. Trust me, you canâ€™t swing a dead cat at Starbucks without hitting a screenwriter huddled at a corner table, determined to crank out the next Black Widow.
Okay, thatâ€™s partly it. The other reason is, I wanted to see if I could do it.
The novella is a prequel to a new thriller series. It takes place in the same universe as another of my seriesâ€”only this time, with new characters. For those who have written a screenplay, you already know you need a log line. Hereâ€™s what I originally wrote for the novella:
Brandon Wheegar has just joined a secretive government-funded lab as a security guard. Why did no one warn him about the murderous test subjects?
Thatâ€™s not bad. The question is, does it work for a movie? Weâ€™ll see. Of course, thereâ€™s plenty of other stuff to worry about. For this post, Iâ€™ll focus on three lessons learned.
The Beats, They Are Different
As fiction writers, we are keenly aware of story beats. Theyâ€™re hammered into us starting in the womb. Iâ€™m tempted to joke that our friend James Scott Bell has beat that concept to death, but it would be low-hanging fruit, so.
The point is, screenplays need beats, too. But these are different and immutable. And without them, you effectively have something that is not a screenplay.