It’s no secret that A Walk to Remember by southern romance author Nicholas Sparks is my all-time favorite book. Due to its high ranking in my heart, and Christmassy vibes, I try to reread it every December.
Continuing my What I Learned About Storytelling From… series, I’d like to share the three things about A Walk to Remember that have shaped my writing.
Love Stories Are Better than Lust Stories
Being a romance author, Sparks has penned some steamy scenes in his time; however, the “love” stories in his other novels have never made me swoon to the caliber A Walk to Remember does.
Why Is That?
There are two types of “romance” books: love, and lust. These days, far too many authors choose to capitalize on the cheapness of lust because, as the media portrays, it seems to be the more popular route.
I mean, Sparks’s own The Notebook is more admired than A Walk to Remember.
So, Why Are Lust-Centered Romances a Bad Thing?
I have nothing against people who enjoy semi-steamy books, but personally, I find those books often (not always) lack the depth of real love.
Think about it… in a lot of romances, aren’t most first-impressions attraction-based rather than personality-based?
How A Walk to Remember is Different
The hallmark of a good love story is that by falling in love with the other person, the main character is inspired to make positive changes in their life, thus spawning a riveting character arc.
Take Landon Carter, our main character, for instance. Prior to his senior year in high school, Landon is a somewhat immature teenage boy who is unsure of his purpose in life after college. In school, he has always picked on people like Jamie Sullivan for their “weird” quirks. Only until forced circumstances arise when he comes to know Jamie for who she is does Landon realize he may love her.
Through their relationship, Landon becomes less judgmental, more forgiving, and more generous. Decades-old wounds are patched, and he comes to love God.
That’s what makes a good love story: a character arc that strengthens once love is added to the equation. I believe that is loads more impactful than a pretty couple “doing it” every other chapter.
Is the romance plot in your novel more romance-centered or love-centered? How can you beef up the relationship to develop a riveting character arc?
Small Stories Can Still Shine
My paperback copy of A Walk to Remember is only 240 pages, with semi-big font. According to what I found online, the novel is around 49,000 words long. For myself, and hundreds of thousands of others, it is one of the most meaningful and heart-melting books on the shelves.
Once of my biggest disagreements with the writing community is that many writers swear a novel isn’t worthy (think Thor here 😉 ) unless the word count rolls in at 50k or above. Like you’re not truly a novelist, and your story is meaningless Haut Gar Bage, if your wordcount is less than that.
You see, word count does not matter. Word count is merely a number displayed on your document.
Writing, good writing, should never be more focused on numeric value than the value of the content itself.
Within the confines of 49k, Sparks uses concise writing to his advantage, making every aspect of the story matter to readers without be unnecessarily wordy. This is a craft I wish was more talked about in writing circles today, and something I’d like to focus on more with my own writing.
Are you worried the word count on your finished WIP (work in progress) isn’t worthy enough? Go back and read the WIP and see if everything makes sense. If the word count is lower than 50k, don’t worry! If the story is cohesive, you have a strong story that you could market as a novella if it ranks in at under 40k.
Novels Can Include God Without Being Preachy or Legalistic
Boom! I’m about to drop a big truth bomb.
In the past three years, most of the books I’ve read have been Christianity-based novels. Whether the books were contemporary romance, fantasy, or dystopian, quite a few did not quite grasp the art of subtlety when it came to the Christian message.
By subtlety, I’m not saying that Christian authors should just throw tiny flecks of our beliefs into the book and deem it Christian. What I am saying is that there are better ways to promote the gospel in fiction without making it explicitly known on every single page.
Readers Should Be Able to Experience the Christian Message, Not Be Beat Over the Head with Christian Talk
Someone once told me that A Walk to Remember is not a Christian novel, but I politely disagree. While it is true that the novel does not follow the usual criteria for what the world believes is a Christian novel, (i.e. no foul language, multiple Bible verses sprinkled throughout, etc.), in the end, Landon Carter becomes a Christian. Landon Carter’s life is changed due to, and only due to, the fact that Jamie introduced him to the Bible and a relationship with God.
So, how is A Walk to Remember not a Christian novel if it shows the process, and redemptive power, of salvation?
A lot of authors “show Christianity” through their “Christian” novels by actually showing the legalistic characteristics of their preferred denomination. And when another book in the Christian fiction genre defies this denomination’s rules of conduct, they think it’s false Christianity.
How A Walk to Remember is Different
Though the denomination of the church featured in the novel is Baptist, Sparks pokes fun at typical Baptist stereotypes, such as the “general rule” of not dancing. The main characters go to a school dance and enjoy themselves without disobeying God.
Instead of focusing on the legalistic side of a denomination, A Walk to Remember shows how amazing a relationship with God can be through Jamie’s epic faith and the pure, selfless love she shows to others because God called her to do so.
Now, I will say the use of cuss words in the book is unnecessary, but I can see why Sparks used them. The foul language is more frequent at the beginning of the novel and tapers off once Landon gets to know Jamie and reconsiders his lifestyle. This shows how God is working in Landon rather than having Landon tell the readers “God is working in me. I need to change my ways and stop cussing”.
Writers in any genre will tell you showing is much more effective than telling. The message of God’s love is also much more effective shown to others than telling them.
Are the characters in your WIP living out the message of Christianity, or are they telling readers through dialogue, thoughts, or narration? Do their actions correspond with their words?
I learned the following about storytelling from A Walk to Remember:
- Lesson 1: Love Stories Are Better than Lust Stories
- Lesson 2: Small Stories Can Still Shine
- Lesson 3: Novels Can Include God Without Being Preachy or Legalistic
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
Have you read A Walk to Remember? What else has the book taught you about writing and storytelling? Drop your lessons learned in the comments!
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.