In How to Adapt Anything into a Screenplay, Richard Krevolin outlines the seven questions which should guide every screenwriter through the adaptation process. I have answered his questions for Mr. Penumbra here.
1. Who is your main character?
The main character is Clay Jannon, an unemployed art school grad who finds work at the 24-hour bookstore.
2. What does your main character want/need/desire?
Clay wants to solve the mystery of the bookstore. He also wants to prove himself as someone who can make it in the “real world” while still having adventures like those he encounters in the world of books.
3. Who/what keeps him from achieving what he wants?
Corvina, the First Reader of the Unbroken Spine, and his tradition-bound cronies try to prevent Clay from solving the mystery with the help of computers and other technology.
4. How in the end does he achieve what he wants in an unexpected, interesting, and unusual way?
Throughout the story, Clay and his friends believe they will solve the mystery using computers. In the end, Clay ends up solving it the old-fashioned way by finding a secret inscription on Gerritszoon’s original typekeys.
5. What are you trying to say by ending the story this way?
While too much emphasis on tradition holds the characters back from solving the mystery, they cannot solve it by technological means alone. I want to highlight a mixture of tradition and progress by ending the story this way.
6. How do you want to tell your story?
I think this work is best served by a chronological adaptation. Since it is a mystery, allowing events to unfold in chronological order will heighten the suspense and keep the viewers guessing.
7. How do your main character and any supporting characters change over the course of the story?
Clay realizes that his arts education, far from making him inferior, actually makes him an essential contributor to the group. He learns to work together with his friends and to value his own skills and talents. As I stated before, Clay discovers that a combination of both historical knowledge and technical skill is necessary for a complete understanding of the world. His personal journey also influences Penumbra to incorporate technology into the reading experience.