The other day I read an interview article about author Nicholas Sparks in the October 2014 issue of GQ. Nicholas Sparks has experienced the kind of writing success that most of us can only dream about. The author of The Notebook has written more successful romance novels than I can count on two hands.
I’ve never cracked one of his novels, so this article did me a favor by giving me a peek inside. Reading another author’s work allows me to experience another person’s life view. In Nicholas Sparks’ case, it’s also a chance to see what appeals to millions of female fans. I appreciated that GQ viewed Sparks’ work as a window into the romantic female psyche.
One characteristic of Sparks’ work singled out by GQ was his description of men in tight jeans.
“As he worked, his jeans pulling tight as he bent over, Sophia felt the heat rise in her cheeks.”
Seriously? After I read that line I realized that if I have to write like that, I’ll never succeed like Sparks. I can’t even think those lines, much less write them.
Now, I don’t begrudge Sparks’ success or writing style. His writing obviously touches countless fans and that’s a good thing. What fascinates and amazes me is the glaring difference in Starks’ writing style and view of romance from my own. This extends to the dialogue of his romantic male leads and their romantic letter writing. The samples quoted by GQ suggest a bland sparse discourse that reminds me of a conversation I had at the dawn of puberty.
It was during the summer at the end of junior high. A buddy of mine, who had moved away, returned for a visit. We took off on our bikes looking to have a good time or so I thought. He wanted to stop by this girl’s house to say ‘hello,’ a hot girl. Her house was along the way to where we were going. In truth, her house was where we were going.
They sat on the porch and talked about nothing. I swear to God I’ve never heard as boring a conversation in my entire life. I have more interesting conversations with the police officers who pull me over for speeding.
“You nearly lost control of your vehicle making that U turn,” the cop said.
“I was in total control,” I said.
“You know, I was going to give you a warning but if you’re going to hit me attitude…”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you’re right.”
For the record, it was a left turn, and I was sliding my car around the corner on purpose. Thankfully, he let me go with only a warning. I was driving a black, Porsche 944 Turbo in the middle of Brentwood, California. And there are few things as fun as sliding a Porsche around a corner, but I digress.
The conversation between my buddy and the hot chick consisted of bland banalities.
“What have you done this summer?” Buddy.
“I’m learning to type.” Chick
“What can you type?”
“I can type Jeff,” The name of chick’s then boyfriend, who, by the way, had a more active sex life in high school than I’ve had in my entire life.
They even discussed the moss growing on the top step leading up to the front porch where we were located. I was thinking, “Okay, you’ve said ‘hello’ can we go now?” I obviously didn’t get it, and we never left. Some part of my soul is still stuck on that porch playing wingman from hell.
Reading excerpts of Sparks’ male dialogue confirms that this mindless drivel works for women. I’ve been doing it wrong my entire life. That’s too bad for me, because I’d have to have a lobotomy to speak like that. No disrespect to my buddy or the hot chick. Obviously they were quite content with the moss on the top step colloquy.
Now, I hope I never write boring dialogue or describe how a man looks in tight jeans or write about love letters. I also hope that there are women who will still enjoy my work despite its lack of the above. Only time will tell if such female readers exist. I’m hoping that they do.
Oh, and if you ever get the chance to take a Porsche on a racetrack and slide it sideways around a curve, take it! So long as you don’t kill yourself, it’s a great time.