The Nicholas Sparks Playbook: His 7 Favorite Plot Tricks
12:25 PM PST 2/8/2013 by Rebecca Ford
His movie adaptions may be known for their tearjerking, heartrending romance, but they have much more in common than that. With "Safe Haven" opening on Valentine's Day, THR looks back at the signature "Sparks-isms" that have been featured in his 8 romance dramas.
Story: A divorced woman (Robin Wright) finds love letters in bottles that have washed up from sea. She travels to North Carolina to meet the man (Kevin Costner), a recent widower, whom she believes has been sending the notes.
Sparks-ism: Boats. Costner's character is a boat builder, which means he takes his new crush out for a romantic jaunt on the sea. Other Sparks' movies featuring boats include the new film Safe Haven, The Notebook and The Lucky One. Why? Because boats are really, really romantic in movies -- until somebody dies.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
Tagline: It all comes down to who's by your side.
Story: A wealthy guy (Shane West) meets the daughter of a minister (Mandy Moore) and woos her by helping her accomplish a list of wishes. But he soon finds out that she's holding on to a secret that will affect both their lives.
Sparks-ism: (Spoiler alert!) Cancer. Moore's character has cancer, which isn't romantic but does make for a powerful there's-no-time-to-waste theme. At least one other Sparks film includes cancer, but we won't mention which one in case that's also a spoiler. Cancer also is a theme in Safe Haven, as Josh Duhamel's character's first wife died from the disease, and in The Last Song (Miley Cyrus' character's father, played by Greg Kinnear, gets the diagnosis).
The Notebook (2004)
Tagline: Behind every great love is a great story.
Story: A guy without money (Ryan Gosling) falls for a rich girl (Rachel McAdams), but the two are pulled apart by social status differences.
Sparks-ism: Frolicking in the rain. One of the most popular scenes in The Notebook is that infamous rain make-out session. But Gosling and McAdams aren't the only leads who got to play in the puddles. Similar scenes play out in Dear John and Safe Haven.
Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Tagline: It's never too late for a second chance.
Story: An unhappily married woman (Diane Lane) goes to take care of a beachside B&B for a friend and meets a doctor (Richard Gere) who is dealing with professional troubles.
Sparks-ism: Beach romance. The beach is romantic, we get it -- the waves, the sand between your toes. Sparks' stories often play out in beachside towns, so there's often at least one romance-soaked moment in the sand. Other Sparks' films that feature a sandy scene include The Last Song and, yep, Safe Haven.
Dear John (2010)
Tagline: What would you do with a letter that changed everything?
Story: While on break, a young soldier (Channing Tatum) falls for a college student (Amanda Seyfried). When he's deployed, they decide to keep their relationship alive by writing letters.
Sparks-ism: Letter writing. A common movie-magic trick in order to reveal a character's emotions, letter writing has been used in many of Sparks' films. Not only do the leads in Dear John trade notes, but there is also letter-writing in Message in a Bottle, The Last Song, Nights in Rodanthe and Safe Haven.
The Last Song (2010)
Tagline: A story about family, first loves, second chances and the moments of life that lead you back home.
Story: A rebellious girl (Miley Cyrus) is sent to live with her father in a Southern beach town for the summer. She meets a guy (Liam Hemsworth) and falls for him while also rebuilding her relationship with her dad.
Sparks-ism: Moving to a new town. Nothing seems to challenge a person like moving to a new location. Other characters who make a move include Efron's in The Lucky One and Hough's in Safe Haven.
The Lucky One (2012)
Tagline: Take a Chance
Story: A marine (Zac Efron) returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq determined to find the woman (Taylor Schilling) in a photograph that he considered his lucky charm while in combat.
Sparks-ism: Secrets. They may be no fun, but secrets make for plenty of drama. In The Lucky One, Efron's character doesn't tell his new crush that he's been carrying around her photo for a long while. Other secrets are kept by characters in A Walk to Remember and Safe Haven.
Safe Haven (2013)
Tagline: You know it when you find it.
Story: A woman (Julianne Hough) running from her past moves to a new town andfalls in love with a widower (Josh Duhamel).
Sparks-ism: The latest Sparks adaptation has all the ingredients that have been featured in previous films: boats, cancer, frolicking in the rain, beach romance, letter writing, moving to a new town and secrets.
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