1. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Has anyone read books by Nicholas Sparks?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Magnatolia, Jan 29, 2015.

    Hey all,

    I watched a movie today, The Best of Me based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Really good movie albeit a little slow for me personally. In fact based on a novels structure there didn't sem to be much going wrong in the beginning. I've been reading about the three disasters but the first real disaster was more like half way along. We knew from the beginning that the MC had abandoned his girlfriend 20 years ago and never really knew why. But then towards the end there was problem after problem.

    Anyway, so this story line is very similar to what I'm toying with in my mind and I like his other book-based movie Safe Haven. So I got his book. I've been reading some analysis by RAndy Ingermanson where he breaks a scene down into each motivation and reaction. I thought I would see how I fared with The Best of Me.

    Here's the first paragraph:

    For Dawson Cole, the hallucinations began after the explosion on the platform, on the day he should have died.

    In the fourteen years he’d worked on oil rigs, he thought he’d seen it all. In 1997, he’d watched as a helicopter lost control as it was about to land. It crashed onto the deck, erupting in a blistering fireball, and he’d received second-degree burns on his back as he’d attempted a rescue. Thirteen people, most of them in the helicopter at the time, had died. Four years later, after a crane on the platform collapsed, a piece of flying metal debris the size of a basketball nearly took his head off. In 2004, he was one of the few workers remaining on the rig when Hurricane Ivan slammed into it, with winds gusting over a hundred miles an hour and waves large enough to make him wonder whether to grab a parachute in case the rig collapsed. But there were other dangers as well. People slipped, parts snapped, and cuts and bruises were a way of life among the crew. Dawson had seen more broken bones than he could count, two plagues of food poisoning that sickened the entire crew, and two years ago, in 2007, he’d watched a supply ship start to sink as it pulled away from the rig, only to be rescued at the last minute by a nearby coast guard cutter.


    Now, I think the first sentence is what keeps readers interested. The next paragraph seems to me to be very descriptive, very narrative. Is this a particular way of writing? I'm just not used to seeing so much description at the beginning of a novel. Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Thanks!
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This wouldn't bother me too much if it was confined to this relatively short passage. It's backstory, but it appears to be setting something up. If the author continued in this manner for two or three pages, I don't know that I'd be interested. Also, the style of opening tends to vary a lot depending on what you're writing. For commercial best-seller type of fiction I think you'd want to keep this sort of thing to a minimum. On the other hands, I've read literary fiction that starts with this kind of descriptive/narrative opening and continues with it for a very long time, with the author relying on the strength of writing and perhaps some interesting ideas to keep the reader reading even though not much is going on in terms of "action."
     
  3. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Thanks, yeah it went on a bit longer although it was interspersed with some characters thoughts etc. The reason I ask is this guy seems to be really popular in the book-to-movie scene. I know of at least two books that have been made into movies and I think he has another one on the way. All completely original stories, no relation to each other.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, the infamous The Notebook was a Sparks novel. Still never watched or read it though.

    I'm not too sure what you're really asking, however. If you're asking whether it's all right to have so much description right at the beginning - well, clearly it is, since Sparks got published, and he's not the only one who starts with description, certainly. The trick is always in whether you can write it in such a way as to make it interesting - and you need to keep your tone consistent.

    For example, this sorta lengthy opening may attract a certain audience, but it wouldn't attract me. So what if after the first chapter, the descriptions significantly decreases and becomes less detailed, focusing on other things instead? You'd lose the audience that loved the lengthy descriptions, probably - the ones who actually started reading your book. While the less detailed writing would attract someone like me, I'd never read far enough to get there. The result, you got no readers :D

    So I think it doesn't matter per se how you start a book - but the way you start should definitely set the tone for the kind of story your book is, with the kind of voice/tone you intend for the entire book. Those who pick it up and love it, will love it to the end that way. You don't have to win everyone - you can't win everyone. Just win the ones who would love your way of writing, and that's what your opening should show - what kinda writing and what kind of story it is, and what kind of mood it likely would carry throughout the book, so readers know what to expect and know early on if the book is meant for them.
     
  5. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Thanks @Mckk I guess the reason I'm asking is that I'm wondering if it's also genre related, and story pace. For instance his basic story is 'MC saves girlfriend by leaving and fate brings them back together for a second chance 20 years later'. So because there's not a whole lot of edge-of-your-seat tension the novel is paced slower with more descriptive detail. Shining light on the entire scene, rather than just the small section that conveys the tension.

    Example:

    1. The bed was adorned with lace sheets, and expensive bottles of port and wine stood on the side dresser. A large box of gold jewellery lay open beside two empty wine glasses, one with a smudged outline of red lipstick. James shook his head. How on earth could they do this to him?
    2. James glanced around at all the rich trappings. "Rich bastards. How could they do this to me?"

    Hey, if anything it's a good way for me to practice writing more descriptive detail as I tend to skimp way too much on this detail.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The people who read Sparks' novels are probably looking for a slow novel if they enjoy his level of descriptions, and the lack of "edge of your seat tension" isn't important to them because that's not the kind of tension romance readers are looking for.

    I think what matters more is knowing what kind of description/detail is important. I think readers can often take a lot of description if they feel it's serving some purpose. Description is useful for helping the reader really see the scene - but even more than that, it's good for making the reader really feel the scene and immerse in it.
     

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