On Nicholas Sparks and Similar Writers
After a certain blog post, I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for disliking Nicholas Sparks. And I feel the need to clear the air a bit, and clarify what I think of Sparks.
First, I acknowledge that it is difficult to get published. Anybody who is published is either really amazingly talented, really lucky or a total sell-out. Most of the time, it’s a combination of the first two, with a very heavy emphasis on the talent. And I can’t bring myself to judge the writers in the third column too harshly because, let’s face it, everybody has to make a living, and I’m certain there are a lot things I’d be willing to do for a few million* dollars. In the grand scheme of things, having principles about writing a certain kind of story is a lot lower on the list of priorities than, say, being a good person.
Also, I’m using Sparks as the example here, but this line of thinking could very easily apply to any writer, in any genre, and I’m sure you can find another author whose name would fit very neatly in Sparks’ place in this post.
And if you’re a Sparks fan, and it hurts your heart to think badly of him, go right ahead an plug somebody else’s name in, the concept will apply anyway.
So here we go. The Clarification of How I Feel About Nicholas Sparks:
I’ve read two of Sparks’ books, The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, both of which were fine. I don’t think they’re terrible, but I don’t think they’re amazing. They’re escapism, and I’m fine with that.
I actually like one particular aspect of The Notebook. I like that their love story didn’t end when he got the girl; the real love story happened afterward. They married, had children, had hard times and good times. But mostly, they lived quiet, simple lives and shared their time together. It spoke of reality and true love in a way that a lot of other books just don’t.
It was really schmoopy.
I’m not a die-hard romantic. I don’t like big speeches, declarations of undying love and grand gestures. So, consequently, I don’t enjoy ooey-gooey lines about being kissed every minute of every day for forever. It makes me roll my eyes, mostly because men aren’t actually like that.
Men aren’t Sparks’ main audience, of course, women are. Women who either a) are single and waiting for the “perfect” man to come along, or b) are in a committed relationship and feel like the romance has fizzled. Either way, women idealize the men in Sparks’ novels and hold every real-life man to this ridiculous standard that nobody can live up to.
Therein lies his success, of course. He has created “perfect” men, men which women will fall all over themselves to spend money to read about/watch on a screen.
And THAT is why I really dislike him as an author. He’s found a formula that “works.” His stories all revolve around a more-than-perfect man, a perfectly normal woman, a deeper-than-deep love/attraction that overcomes some insignificant social constraint (class distinctions, popularity, etc). Then he adds in a life-threatening illness and/or situation that is really just there to make you cry.
And crying means you feel something, right? And feeling any emotion, no matter how false it is, is better than none at all, right?
Instead of creating stories that he cares about, or that anybody finds interesting, he churns out one story with tiny permutations and different titles, over and over again, in pursuit of an easy dollar.
Again, this applies to a LOT of authors out there, and I am sure you can find one that you feel this way about.
I think it’s interesting to note that I’ve spoken to many people who are fans of Nicholas Sparks. I’ve never once heard any of them say they really enjoy his work, his writing, his characters or anything else. The universal reason that women like his books (and I am not making this up)… “It’s easy to read.” Sometimes they say it a little differently, and it sounds more like, “I don’t have to think too hard when I’m reading his books.” or “I don’t like having to decipher** what I’m reading, and his stuff doesn’t need deciphering.”
But it all comes down to the same thing: His writing is overly simplistic and I don’t care because I cry (therefore I am “feeling” something) and I can put myself in the heroine’s shoes and pretend I am loved by a perfect man.
If that’s what floats your boat, great. Read all the Nicholas Sparks you can get your hands on. I’m not into it, and I won’t read any more of his work. I’ve given it more than a fair shake, and I don’t want to discuss it at length with you anymore.
* Thirty. Thirty million dollars. That’s what Sparks is worth. **No, I’m not entirely sure what she meant by this.