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Nicholas Charles Sparks (born December 31, 1965) is the screenwriter behind the films Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Nights In Rodanthe, The Last Song, Dear John, The Lucky One, Safe Haven, The Best Of Me, The Longest Ride and most recently, The Choice. He reportedly began writing during his first year of college at Notre Dame after a track injury and a long recovery. He took a string of jobs from waiter, real estate appraiser, telemarketer, orthopedic manufacturer, and pharmaceutical sales. Finally in 1994 he tried one last time and produced The Notebook which launched him to fame.
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He makes distinctions about his work and insists that he screenwrites love stories, not romance; drama, not melodrama. And that's why, he said, he dominates the genre.


List of selected works

Tropes about the screenwriter:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Several Sparks heroines have one of these, often a Bad Boss.
  • Ambiguously Christian: Sparks himself is quite unambiguously Christian, having been raised Catholic and running a private Christian academy in North Carolina; however, the messaging of his works is not typically overtly Christian. While many Sparks characters are seen praying and attending church, and some go so far as to express a belief in God or a higher power in general, only a few characters, such as Jamie in A Walk to Remember and Steve in The Last Song, are openly devout.
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  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Often. The one in The Choice is very similar to the one from The Notebook in tone, to the point of being a Shout-Out.
  • Art Imitates Life: Sparks outlines the inspirations for all of his books on his website. Many of his stories are based on his own life or that of a loved one:
    • Jeremy and Lexie in True Believer and At First Sight (in terms of personality), plus Paul and Adrienne in Nights in Rodanthe (in terms of their relationship history), are based on himself and his ex-wife.
    • Garrett, Catherine, and Theresa in Message in a Bottle are based on his parents and his father's second fiancée.
    • Kyle in The Rescue is based on one of his sons.
    • Miles and Missy in A Bend in the Road, plus Landon and Jamie in A Walk to Remember, are based on his sister and brother-in-law.
    • Travis and Gabby in The Choice are based on, respectively, his brother and his former assistant.
    • John in Dear John is based on his cousin.
    • Noah and Allie in The Notebook are based on his wife's grandparents.
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    • Ira in The Longest Ride is based on his grandmother's partner.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: There are a few varieties:
  • Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending: What a ridiculously abundant amount of his books end up having.
  • Black-and-White Morality: There are two types of characters who exist on the periphery of the central romance: those who support it and those who oppose it.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Tru Walls, the hero of Every Breath, lives and works in Zimbabwe, as did three generations of Walls men before him. Lest anyone get excited at the prospect of a rare interracial Sparks romance, we are told within the first two pages that Tru is of English extraction and his great-grandfather worked with imperialist icon Cecil Rhodes.
  • Caught in the Rain: Might be in everyone of his books/films.
  • Combo Breaker: The average Sparks novel follows a couple through falling in love, overcoming an obstacle, and reconnecting. There are two exceptions to this pattern:
    • The Wedding, which tells the story of an aging couple rekindling their love.
    • Two By Two, which tells the story of a marriage breaking down for good.
  • Creator Killer: Nicholas Sparks Productions closed down a few months after the film version of The Choice underperformed.
  • Creator Provincialism: Most of his works are set in various small coastal towns in North Carolina, where he's from. If not specifically North Carolina, somewhere in the Southeast—South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana. Complete with lots of Scenery Porn.
  • Empathic Environment/Mood Lighting: In the movies, happy scenes are tinted orange and pink while sad scenes are tinted blue and gray, and the weather and script match these colors accordingly, ranging from a sunny, golden Falling-in-Love Montage to a gray, rainy Sad-Times Montage.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: A few heroes are single parents who effortlessly balance their Family Business with the work of raising their Adorably Precocious Child(ren) and being Ridiculously Photogenic at all times.
  • Has a Type: Several heroines in his books are described as dark-haired with a "hint of olive" to their complexion. In the movies, they tend to be blonde.
  • Hate Sink: A Romantic False Lead is often this. They are often characterized by their insistence on maliciously misnaming their romantic rival at all times, as well as grabbing the heroine by the arm against her will. Their unique loathsomeness may take one of several forms:
    • Domestic Abuse (Kevin in Safe Haven)
    • Alcoholism (Frank in The Best of Me)
    • Bad adultery (Jack in Nights in Rodanthe, Josh in Every Breath)
    • Sociopathy (Richard in The Guardian)
    • Simply being a Jerkass, which may include one or more of the above (Belinda in A Walk to Remember, Keith in The Lucky One, Ashley in The Last Song, Vivian in Two by Two)
  • Hollywood Atlas: Sparks portrays the South only with its most positive stereotypes: gentility, family, faith, tradition, hard work, and enormous oceanside houses with white picket fences and trees dripping with Spanish moss. Characters who embody less comfortable Southern stereotypes, among them homophobia and drug use, are Designated Evil or mentioned briefly without being seen.
  • Hollywood Autism: There are a number of characters with autism in the Sparks canon; they are always male and their autism is always high-functioning.
  • Idealized Sex: Almost every Sparks movie depicts a round of lovemaking, often the couple's first, which is always gentle, romantic, perfectly timed, dimly lit, mutually satisfying, and free of any discomfort or awkwardness, even when one or both partners are virgins. Almost all of these encounters are missionary position only, with the occasional Shower of Love thrown in for variety. None of these scenes shows any nudity more scandalous than a quick glimpse of Sideboob, and any sounds from the actors louder than heavy breathing are drowned out by music.
    • In the books, the leading couple never has sex for the sake of having sex; they always pledge their love to one another immediately before, during, or after the encounter, if they have not already done so. Prior to this, they never think of each other in a sexual way, even if physical attraction is clear and present. On the other hand, should the hero or heroine have had any sexual encounters that take place outside the context of the central romance or a previous committed relationship (and they rarely do), they usually feel deeply ashamed about it.
  • Info Dump: Instead of letting his readers glean information about the leading couple from their thoughts, words, and actions, Sparks spends 50 to 100 percent of the first two chapters of his novels explaining almost every detail of their personalities, back stories, and motivations.
  • Love Letter: The leading couple often writes to each other in longhand, even when more convenient communication methods are available. Usually includes one Voiceover Letter or more.
  • Melodrama: According to BuzzFeed's Anne Helen Petersen, Sparks's embrace of this is what makes him stand out as an author—although Sparks himself might dispute that characterization.
  • Men Act, Women Are: In a Sparks romance, it is the man's job to make grand romantic gestures and the woman's job to accept them.
  • Monochrome Casting: Characters who are not white, Christian, or heterosexual are so few in Sparks stories that they are tokens within the entire canon:
    • Eric in A Walk to Remember, Jean in Nights in Rodanthe, and Victor in the film version of The Lucky One (he is Hispanic in the book) are all the Token Black Friend of one of the protagonists.
    • Ira and Ruth in The Longest Ride are his first Jewish protagonists.
    • Maria in See Me is his first Hispanic protagonist.
    • Marge and Liz in Two by Two are the members of his first Queer Romance.
    • There's also Willa the housemaid in the film version of The Notebook.
    • Minority extras are usually presented in a way that suggests a perfectly racially integrated South.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Sparks heroes often get a Shirtless Scene on the beach or while performing hard physical labor, allowing the heroines to eat the eye candy.
  • Ms. Fanservice: There will always be an excuse for the heroine to be shown in a bikini, tight jeans, or short shorts.
  • Obliviously Beautiful: All Sparks heroines are beautiful, well-dressed, and slender, but he goes out of his way to emphasize how little effort they put (or appear to put) in being so and how little they realize that all men find them attractive. On the other hand, there is an undercurrent of contempt for female characters who are excessively preoccupied with, or conscious of, their own beauty. The heroine is juxtaposed with one or more of these women, often her friends or co-workers, to emphasize how much more real she is.
  • One True Love: The ideal Sparks promotes above all others. If there is one iron-clad rule of his stories, it is that no half of a Sparks Official Couple is allowed to be truly happy with anyone but the other half.
  • Opposites Attract: All Sparks couples are opposites in at least one fundamental way:
  • Plot Armor: Multiple Sparks heroes go to war, and occasionally incur serious injuries, but none of them are fatal or so physically crippling that the hero looks any different.
  • Power Ballad: The theatrical trailer for each film adaptation (with the exception of The Notebook) is punctuated by a radio-friendly one of these:
    • Message in a Bottle: Natalie Imbruglia, "Torn"
    • A Walk to Remember: Mandy Moore, "Cry"
    • Nights in Rodanthe: Gavin Rossdale, "Love Remains the Same"
    • Dear John: Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright, "Set the Fire to the Third Bar"
    • The Last Song: Miley Cyrus, "When I Look at You"
    • The Lucky One: The Fray, "You Found Me"
    • Safe Haven: Lissie, "Go Your Own Way"
    • The Best of Me: John Legend, "All of Me"
    • The Longest Ride: Hozier, "Work Song"
    • The Choice: Sam Smith, "Like I Can"
  • Recycled Premise: Aside from his works frequently displaying the listed tropes, there are other similar plot elements that keep cropping up:
    • The Best of Me and The Longest Ride, released within months of each other (the former in October 2014, the latter in April 2015), both feature the young lovers in question being counseled by a sage older man and, following a period of separation, having the next stage of their relationship being facilitated by that older man's last will.
    • The Best of Me and The Notebook both feature virtually parallel storylines between older and younger versions of the lovebirds.
    • The Notebook and The Choice both play out over two separate timeframes, with a love triangle as the focus of the first and the heroine's medical incapacitation as the focus of the second.
    • The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, plus one of two storylines in The Longest Ride, are all framed as a story being retold to another character.
    • Message in a Bottle, True Believer, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John, The Last Song, and Every Breath all feature a couple meeting unexpectedly and falling in love in coastal North Carolina before one of them is compelled to return to another state or country.
    • Message in a Bottle and Every Breath both feature someone sending a love letter with no expectation that the addressee will ever read it.
    • A Bend in the Road, True Believer/At First Sight, and Safe Haven all feature ghostly occurrences.
    • A Walk to Remember, The Best of Me, and Every Breath all feature an underage character with a life-threatening illness or disability.
    • Message in a Bottle and The Lucky One both feature one of the leading characters traveling across several states to track down the other after finding a message they wrote to someone else.
    • True Believer, A Bend in the Road, The Longest Ride, and Every Breath all feature one half of the leading couple being unable to bear children.
    • The Choice and The Last Song both feature the heroine initially disliking the hero until they bond over their mutual love of animals.
    • The Guardian and The Choice both feature the leading relationship being facilitated by a dog. In the case of The Guardian, it is an Evil-Detecting Dog.
    • Dear John and The Longest Ride both feature the hero's dangerous line of work coming between him and the heroine.
    • True Believer and A Bend in the Road both feature a misunderstanding between the leading couple stemming from the hero's mistaken belief that the heroine has been deceiving him in some way.
    • The Rescue, The Lucky One, and Safe Haven all feature the leading couple falling in love after one of them forms a bond with the other's children.
    • A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, and The Last Song all feature children who are estranged from one of their parents while or before following in that parent's footsteps. In the first two of these works, the child follows their footsteps into the medical profession.
    • Nights in Rodanthe and The Rescue both feature the hero grappling with guilt over a death for which he blames himself.
    • The Last Song and Two by Two both feature a father struggling to connect with his daughter.
    • Leading ladies in The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Two by Two, Message in a Bottle, and The Longest Ride are either painters, professionally or as a hobby, or employed in a profession relating to painting.
    • Dear John and the forthcoming The Return both feature heroes who return to their North Carolina hometowns after being injured in combat overseas.
    • Five Sparks novels are set in the town of New Bern, where Sparks himself lives.
    • Nights in Rodanthe and The Best of Me both feature the lead male being at least partially responsible for someone's death and feeling compelled to apologize to their spouse in person.
  • Recycled Script: Even within recycled plot elements, there are some very specific scenes that make multiple appearances:
    • At First Sight and Two by Two both feature the hero showering and shaving before taking the heroine, who is in the first stages of labor, to the hospital. An example of Art Imitates Life as Sparks himself did this during one of his ex-wife's pregnancies.
    • The Guardian and Safe Haven both feature the villain having abusive sex with another woman while comparing her unfavorably to the heroine.
    • Multiple works feature one half of the leading couple (usually male) teaching the other half (usually female) how to engage in a water sport.
    • The film versions of The Notebook, The Lucky One, Safe Haven, and The Choice all feature an Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date.
    • Message in a Bottle and Two by Two both include mentions of a cat named Harvey.
    • Prior to meeting their respective heroes, the heroines of True Believer, A Bend in the Road, and The Rescue were all unceremoniously dumped by investment bankers.
    • Multiple works feature a home-cooked meal followed by a Convenient Slow Dance followed by Their First Time.
    • Many Sparks movies feature the leading couple discussing and observing astronomical phenomena, at times looking at the same stars while miles apart. More specifically, A Walk to Remember and The Best of Me both feature the hero building a telescope.
    • Dear John and The Best of Me both feature the hero making a grand gesture to secure medical treatment for someone close to the heroine.
    • The Last Song and The Choice both feature a character authorizing extraordinary measures to prolong the life of a hospitalized character who had previously signed a Do Not Resuscitate.
    • Six—soon to be seven—Sparks heroines have names ending in -ie.
    • Numerous books show one of the leads having a casual outing with the other and being struck by the feeling that it could be the first of many such outings to come.
    • The heroines of The Notebook, The Best of Me, and The Choice, plus the hero of The Last Song, all have nosy, hypercritical mothers who are determined that their daughters should be proper Southern belles (or that their sons should date them).
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: The books are unfortunately fraught with these. In The Choice, for example, Gabby and Travis spend almost an entire page talking about why Travis is opting for barbecued chicken instead of a burger.
  • Self-Adaptation: Sparks has production credits on four film adaptations of his books and a screenwriting credit for The Last Song, the only one of his films to predate the book of the same name.
  • Shout-Out: In The Choice, a brief mention is made of a blissfully happy married couple who had to move to a nursing home, where they died together.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: Many of his characters share a name with one of his family members or friends:
    • Landon Carter from A Walk to Remember is named for his son Landon.
    • Miles Ryan from A Bend in the Road is named for his sons Miles and Ryan.
    • Lexie Darnell from True Believer and At First Sight is named for his daughter Lexie.
    • Savannah Curtis from Dear John is named for his daughter Savannah.
    • Catherine Blake from Message in a Bottle is named for his ex-wife, Cathy.
    • Paul Flanner and Adrienne Willis from Nights in Rodanthe are named for his ex-in-laws, Paul and Adrienne Cote.
    • Theresa Osborne in Message in a Bottle may be named for his agent, Theresa Park.
    • Jamie Sullivan in A Walk to Remember may be named for his editor, Jamie Raab.
    • Jennifer Romanello in The Guardian shares a name with his publicist, also Jennifer Romanello.
    • Denise Holton in The Rescue is named for Denise Di Novi, who produced several of his movies.
    • Julie Barenson in The Guardian is named for Julie Barer, another agent who provided guidance for that manuscript.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Present to an extent in several of his works, when two lovers are separated for a long while and are unable to feel more strongly for anyone—including their spouses—than each other. Up to Eleven in The Best of Me, in which even Amanda is astonished that Dawson has not dated or slept with any other woman in the twenty years since their high-school romance ended.
  • Something Completely Different: The Guardian, Safe Haven, and See Me are more thrillers than his typical love stories. These feature the man immediately feeling compelled to rescue the woman from a Hate Sink, who in two out of three cases is a...
  • Stalker with a Crush: Richard in The Guardian, Rodney in True Believer, Keith in The Lucky One, and Kevin in Safe Haven. (It should be noted that three out of four of these stalkers are cops.) Averted in See Me, although the stalkee does suspect at first that the stalker is someone she knows to have a crush. This trope only applies to antagonists, though, because...
  • Stalking Is Love: ...when a protagonist—such as Theresa in Message in a Bottle, Noah in The Notebook, and Logan in The Lucky One—does it.
  • Sugar Bowl: The standard Sparks setting is an old-fashioned small town, drenched in Scenery Porn and filled with friendly and quirky locals, with No Poverty, no crime, no racism, no dark secrets, very few non-nuclear families, and no real problems short of occasional Hostile Weather and a bad apple or two. Subverted in True Believer and At First Sight, in which Lexie's hometown of Boone Creek is down on its luck economically but pretty and friendly once you get used to it, as she repeatedly insists to City Mouse Jeremy.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Rarely trusts his audience to discern a character's feelings on their own and instead states them outright in the narration or dialogue.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Many key characters die of this.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Several, depending on the scenario:
    • At the beach or in a backyard, the characters feast on burgers, chips, and cold beers.
      • This is an aversion of Hollywood Cuisine: Despite all of his stories being set in or near North Carolina and many including barbecue scenes, you never see his characters dining on pulled pork or ribs.
    • Every coastal community in Sparksland includes a charmingly weathered seafood shack where the leading couple dines.
      • In Safe Haven, the heroine works at such a place. The hero actually takes her someplace much nicer for their date.
    • If the woman cooks dinner for the man, she makes pasta. If the man cooks dinner for the woman, he makes steak.
    • To drink, sweet tea before dinner and beer or red wine afterward—unless a Designated Evil character is doing the drinking, in which case they'll take hard liquor.

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