The swoons. The tears. The heartache. If you’ve ever indulged in a Nicholas Sparks creation, then you’ve most likely experienced all three back to back. So how exactly does this Nebraskan love story enthusiast infuse so much feeling into each page of his romantic treasures —-tales so precious and rare that they (according to him at least) surpass any Shakespearean and Jane Austen masterpiece? Although following in the footsteps of the author of The Notebook, The Lucky One (made into a film that’ll be in theaters April 20), and A Walk to Remember sounds daunting, we’re here to tell you that it is possible...with the right ingredients, of course.
When followed to a T, the perfect love story recipe can produce potent, delectable stirrings (think long walks in a lush garden, breezy Sunday afternoons, and red-hot kisses in the rain). When altered slightly, though, it could have disastrous results and leave readers irate or wallowing in despair. Fret not, though, because we’ve jotted down each specific step just for you. Do follow closely!
Here’s a list of ingredients you’ll need for Nicholas Sparks pie:
- Two ridiculously attractive protagonists.
- At least one sabotaging friend, relative, or neighbor. Add more for an extra kick.
- Two cups of romance—weddings, stargazing, boat rides and all clichéd date ideas are acceptable.
- Three teaspoons of malice and distress—don’t be afraid to mix in disease, death, resentment, and betrayal.
- A dash of pleasure—pepper in lots of lip locks, lingering stares, hand-holding and beach canoodling.
- Suspense and tension—four tablespoons’ worth! (The more absurd, the better.)
- A pinch of happiness—save it for the very end.
1. Take two good-looking folks and plop them in smack the middle of a serene and enchanting setting.
Nestle them in the sunny countryside, a quaint town where everybody knows each other, or beneath the canopy of a deciduous region. Or maybe, you should stick close to the beach! Lovers loveth those crashing waves of passions, the churning ocean of emotion, the playful, flirtatious splashing... Ronnie and Will did in The Last Song and it worked out pretty well for them in the end, no? It’s all up to you though! Just know that whichever backdrop you choose should be a Thomas Kinkade painting brought to life.
2. Have them meet in a destined fashion.
The “meant to be" aspect makes the affair grander and more titillating. Perhaps a Boston journalist, upon discovering a bottle containing a love note, begins an investigation and travels to North Carolina to meet the man responsible for the messages. Perhaps two lonely, middle-aged souls hit it off while trying to find solace at a coastal retreat. Perhaps a brave Marine, while stationed in the Middle East, stumbles upon a lucky charm—a photo of a stunning woman—and embarks on a journey to find her. Or, maybe, you could even add a little supernatural flavoring into the mix by a science-oriented fella to a small, bucolic town to research the eerie, mysterious lights that appear in the town’s ancient cemetery—only to develop a deep longing for the orphaned granddaughter of the woman who invited him there in the first place. Basically, just make sure they meet in the most arbitrary, complicated way possible.
3. Stack the odds against them and have them fall in love.
Here’s some food for thought: Poor plebeian boy meets well-off girl and they are positively smitten with each other but—gasp!—her parents disapprove. You could also go the route of the local rebellious stud falls for a pastor’s law-abiding, God-fearing (despite her bleak fashion sense and lack of popularity). And if you really want to create tension, take The Best of Me approach: Insert one man who comes from a clan of criminals and thugs and have him lust after the girl from a wealthy, upstanding family.
4. Then, viciously rip the two lovebirds apart.
Whip up some drama-rama. Subject one of them to an incurable illness, ship one of them to off to the war in Iraq, or have one of them reveal to her lover that her brother was the one who killed his wife in a hit-and-run. Do what you must! Alzheimer’s? Go for it! Natural disaster? Terrible, but if you must, you must. Leukemia? It’s always sad when they die young but you’re doing it for the sake of the story, the crux, the pang...the shrill agony of it all! Make them hurt and beg for mercy, dammit.
5. Stir in a period of estrangement and resentment.
Allow the two lovers time apart to wallow in their misery and grow as individuals. Maybe one of them writes his sweetheart letters every day for a whole year. Perhaps a grieving young girl achieves clarity by completing her late father’s musical composition. You could also have another character spend his later years in life reflecting on the past and narrating his most poignant experience with love and loss. Keep stirring for a good ten minutes to thicken the plot and to create a tale with considerable substance.
6. Complete with a heart-tugging and satisfying conclusion. (Bake well, don’t burn.)
So what in heaven’s name does a happy ending look like? Here are a few examples to nibble on: A woman angry and frightened over the fact that her beau carried a photo of her in his pocket way before they ever met, forgives him and welcomes him back with open arms; a war veteran generously donates his inheritance to his former flame’s husband’s cancer fund to help him get the medical treatments he needs; a once troubled man rekindles a relationship by transferring schools to be closer to his darling. Or, go all out and have a husband make amends for twenty years of neglect by revealing to his wife that the wedding she thought she was planning for their daughter is actually for their vow renewals. (Someone cue the ’aww’s please.) Regardless of what pretty little bow of a revelation you choose to tie up the story, remember that keeping hope alive is crucial!
And there you have it—your very own Nicholas Sparks pie of tender sentiments! Cheers and bon appetit.
Are you a fan of Nicholas Sparks’ books? If so, which one are you most fond of? Or, do you recoil in horror any time people refer to him as the greatest romance novelist? (And, since we’re being honest here, how anxious are you to see Zac Efron bare his new, muscular bod as Logan in The Lucky One?! Yum.)