An Idiot’s Guide to Nicholas Sparks

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Nicholas Sparks is definitely going to sound like a familiar name whether you’re into books or not, as the famous writer has been killing it since 1996 with 21 published novels; 11 of which have been adapted into movies.

Sparks’ first published novel, which is considered his most iconic one to date, was of course The Notebook, which he wrote back in 1993. This timeless romantic drama, which was set in the mid-90s, became a New York Best-Seller just one week after its release, and it managed to absolutely smash it on the big screen, becoming an essential on every ‘must watch romance movie’ list there is. The movie even sparked a real life romance between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, who played the main characters of the story.

Other than The Notebook, Sparks is famous for many novels, which didn’t just bring in the highest ratings but also made him a trademark in the writing and film industry. Some of these include The Lucky One, Message In A Bottle, Dear John, The Last Song, and Safe Haven, which grossed over half a billion dollars combined in the box office.

When it comes to his novels, Sparks always settles for small towns or the countryside rather than a big city, and in accordance, his characters usually lead a common life far away from luxury. What adds a spark of magic (pun intended) to his stories is the impeccable love story between his protagonists who, despite their flaws, usually have a kind and humane nature.

A quote from The Notebook that can best describe the characters Sparks enjoys creating is: “I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul and to me, this has always been enough.” In fact, most of the love stories in his novels are built upon a unique connection or extraordinary fate that brought two people together in an incredibly short amount of time.

Some of the elements that Sparks likes to play with in order to add a little bit of complexity and burdens to his novels are sickness and parental disapproval. We saw both in The Last Song; with Ronnie’s father dying from cancer and her boyfriend’s family disapproving of her. Another element that’s always present in any of the novelist’s storylines is death, so you have to be ready for a tearful goodbye at anytime.

Moreover, he is a master at drawing up heart-wrenching family drama that strongly influences his characters as well as touches the readers. In Dear John, for example, we watched a strange family dynamic between John and his father, up until John realized that his father was actually suffering from autism and began learning how to connect with him. He also used a similar approach with the estranged father-daughter relationship between Ronnie and her once alcoholic father in The Last Song.

Other than that, the author always puts in a lot of effort into creating significant events in his main characters’ lives that he can use to explain why they turned out to be the way they are; war is usually one of them, as we’ve seen with Logan’s character in The Lucky One, which was very much influenced by his years in the Iraq war.

It’s also very common for Sparks to use flashbacks and long conversations to bring out many of his characters sides and put them on display. In his novel titled See Me, readers get to learn about Colin’s past and values through his conversation with Maria in which he shares all his darkest secrets and traits. And because Sparks’ novels are always full of emotions, it’s very easy for the reader to connect to the characters and feel like he’s a part of the story.

The NY-bestseller is also not afraid to experiment with different genres to create his own love story from them; Safe Haven and See Me both had great elements of suspense in them. Some critics think that Sparks uses the same tricks in many of his stories, which may be true as cancer was the cause of death in five of his stories for example, but to be fair, it was employed differently each time.

At the end of the day, what stands out in any Nicholas Sparks novel, other than an undying love story, are very strongly defined characters that will undoubtedly leave a mark on your heart.

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