Since “Murder in Wauwatosa” was published, I’ve debated what direction to go. While still promoting that book with various speaking engagements and book signings, I started on another book … a fiction book aimed at kids ages 10-14 or so based on some experiences I had moving to a new town.
I’ve also started a narrative nonfiction version of “Murder in Wauwatosa.” That’s a book based on the facts, but with dialog and action added to make the book read like … well, a book instead of more like a documentary.
I’ve always thought “Murder in Wauwatosa” would make a great motion picture, albeit with some tweaking. Doing some of the narrative nonfiction gave me more of a taste for what a movie on Buddy Schumacher’s killing in 1925 could look like. I hadn’t had anyone bang down my door telling me they were interested in doing a screenplay – and I never asked anyone if they would – so I decided to do it myself.
The thought of doing something I’d never done before didn’t scare me. I know I can do this. Heck, I’d never had a book published until I did “Murder in Wauwatosa.” So, why not a screenplay? I also got a taste of being on the other side of the camera recently, when Bill Dever graciously allowed me to bang my head against a wall in the movie, “Resurrection,” a B horror flick due out in October.
Another step toward my decision to dive head first into writing a screenplay based on my book was being allowed to critique a forthcoming novel by my friend, Michael John Sullivan. Doing that forced me to look closely at someone else’s character development and someone else’s story line to see if it all made sense in the context of someone else’s work.
I highly suggest that anyone who wants to write a book or a screenplay or poetry or song lyrics, or whatever, critique other people’s work. You don’t have to send them the critique, and in fact you probably shouldn’t unless your opinion is explicitly requested. But by divorcing yourself from your own dreams, you can sometimes see what works and what doesn’t in someone else’s. You may not cling as tightly to something in your own story that maybe doesn’t work, but you thought it would be neat to put in a reference to your favorite aunt.
I’ve got the first page or two done on my screenplay so far. I’m calling it “Blackridge” for now. That’s the swimming hole Buddy and his friends were on their way to when the poor guy got abducted. It’ll be slow going for a while as I set things up, get used to formatting properly, etc. But after a while, the story will hopefully tell itself, at least to some degree.
I’ve been studying up on this screenplay business as much as I can online so far, but upon the advice of my brother, Andy Hoffman, have ordered Syd Field‘s book: “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” and am going to purchase 4×5 index cards that he says you need.
I have a pretty good idea what I need to change story-wise to turn the book into a compelling screenplay. Whether I do it or not will come down to execution and keeping my focus on all the elements that need to be there.
I’m planning on including some information in the screenplay that was not available when the book was published in 2012. I’m always interested in hearing more about the case, what Wauwatosa and Milwaukee were like in the 1920s and 1930s, if anyone’s parents or grandparents were ever told anything about the circumstances surrounding Buddy’s murder, etc. Feel free to email me if you have any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully, I’ll be able to churn out a screenplay before too long that doesn’t need to be totally rewritten.