The process of getting a novel to the screen is often a long one. It often takes years for the right people to come along and make it happen, let along pull it off. However, it’s not often you hear about the other way around, with a script making its way into novel form. However, that’s just what happened with Ingrid Sundberg (MFA/Screenwriting ’03) and her debut novel
All We Left Behind
“I actually wrote my first drafts of the story in my Screenwriting 2 class,” Sundberg said. “Originally, the story was a coming-of-age drama set in college, but it went through many versions after that original draft. I tried the subject matter as a comedy, then set it in high school, changed it back to a drama, and eventually decided a novel might be a better medium.”
However, the story in the novel itself is not what you would find in those original drafts.
“Marion, the main character in
All We Left Behind
, has been with me for over ten years,” said Sundberg. “I was very interested in this character that was afraid of sex because of her past, but was also coming to the age where she must confront her maturing desire.”
According to Sundberg, Marion experiences the world in a sensual way, through touch and sound and smell. Without knowing how to articulate these things, she still feels her desires and her fears intensely.
“She haunted me. She had a secret to tell,” Sundberg said, and so she set off in telling it.
When looking back on her time in our screenwriting program, Sundberg realized she was still learning how to write, and didn’t have enough experience to tell Marion’s story just yet. Eventually, she threw away the previous drafts, and started from scratch, and found it easier to find Marion’s voice in her writing.
She had to forgo the usual structure-heavy screenplay format, and break her habits from that, in order to tell the story properly in novel form. In order to do so, she wrote over 200 pages of vignettes, short 1 to 2 page scenes that helped her get her characters down and explore their feelings.
“This is when the story finally found its heart,” said Sundberg. “Of course, after I did that exercise I had a mess of fractured story pieces and I had to figure out how to sew them all back together into a narrative. It was like I had to deconstruct my novel and then re-construct it again.”
Though it took her four and a half years, from first draft to the published book, it was still well worth it.
Thought she had to shed the structure heavy format of screenplays, Sundberg still credits her time at Dodge College as being essential to her writing.
“I found that my education in screenwriting really helped give me a leg up in the plot and structure department, which many of my colleagues at school struggled with,” she said.
Looking back at her screenwriting background, if someone decides they want to make this book into a movie, I asked if she would be up to the task.
“I’d happily adapt it into a script!”