It's all about the tear-jerking...

Conversations with the person cleaning your teeth tend to be one-sided, so Crystal was able to run a monologue on what she was reading these days for a good half hour. I’d never heard of the books or authors she was talking about, mostly Christian women’s fiction. Her current read sounded ho-hum and I wasn’t particularly interested in what happened to the main character.

But the woman had a sharp pointed instrument in her hand, and her hand was in my mouth. What could I do but listen and nod encouragingly every so often?

And then she mentioned Nicholas Sparks:

“It’s all about the tear-jerking, y’know? That’s what he does. And he tries to put a little bit of a story in it, a little bit of a message, but not that much of one.

“Mostly it’s about getting you to cry. I had to stop reading his books because all I did was cry. It’s like those Lifeline stories on TV. I can’t watch them at all any more.

“But what bothers me the most is those short choppy sentences. He writes in these short choppy sentences like we’re too dumb to read long ones.

“I went to a book-signing he did a long time ago at Wal-Mart. I’d just taken in a little book to have him sign it and it – he – wasn’t very nice – but maybe that was because it was Wal-Mart.

“There sure were a lot of people there, though, with that line snaking through the store. Maybe it’s ‘cause he writes about places around here, or maybe it was just that it was Wal-Mart, but there sure are a lot of people who read him and like to cry.”

She paused, then squirted water in my mouth.

“Okay, you can rinse now.”

The literary review was over.

21 comments to It’s all about the tear-jerking…

  • That reminds me, I should make a dentist appointment.

    What I find interesting is that she was right on with her review. (Point 1.) Readers are smart. It would be wise to keep that in mind.

    The other thing is (Point 2.) that she STOPPED reading his books.

    Chosing your audience and style will determine the longevity of your career. Do you want one that stands the test of time, or one where you can make a quick buck and get out. It would be wise to remember point 1 when making this decision.

    • The thing is, he has an audience. People eat his books alive, movies too. Yet, I know no one who reads him faithfully. They must all live in NC.

      • Natasha

        Well, he’s definitely big in NC, but I’m thinking he’s big everywhere. But they sure visit here. I might have mentioned that A and I went to the Outer Banks last year during the off-season. The weather was awful, cold, windy, and there was no one around, anywhere — until we went to Rodanthe, where there were dozens of middle-aged women walking around with notebooks, cameras, and paperback books.

      • I wonder if he’ll have an audience in 100 years. Or will he be replaced by the next great paper soaker? And where does all this leave the e-book readers? Won’t all those tears short out their circut boards?

        🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Natasha

      She WAS right about readers, both that they’re smart AND that many of them want a good (or even not-so-good) tear-jerker.

      I think writers need to think first of themselves as the audience: Would I want to read this if I hadn’t written it myself? I think the answer needs to be yes.

  • Ditto! Ditto! Ditto! Oh, wait, did I just make three very short sentences…

    Yes, I stopped reading him too. The main objective to every story is to cry. That’s fine to a point, but if you feel like slitting your wrist every time you read a book–who wants that?

    A couple of his books really stuck with me. ‘A Walk to Remember’, it was a great story about a young girl who was dying. I know, sad, but she was a good character with a story to tell. I liked it.
    Most of his books I hardly remember. I picked up a paperback yesterday that I read years ago and for the life of me I couldn’t remember anything about it. That is not a good sign.
    ‘The Choice’ was put on this earth simply to make people miserable! It’s awful–and the last book of his I will ever read. I just don’t need that kind of grief in my life.

    BTW, I hate when the dental hygienist asks me open-ended questions when she has her freaking hands in my mouth.

    • Natasha

      Ha! I haven’t read any of his books — even though there were lots to choose from at the used book sale. Every time I’ve picked one up and opened it to a random page I’ve thought ‘you’ve got to be kidding.’ And put it back down.

  • I’ve never read Sparks, but I did see A Walk to Remember (the movie) and really enjoyed the story. And I did cry alot, but I also felt it was a good story, so it was worth the tears. I don’t like stories that just me cry without a realy redeemable point.

    One thing that’s interesting is that she said he wasn’t very nice. I don’t know why that stuck out to me. If I were an author, I’d probably enjoy meeting my readers, but that’s my personality. No one said authors had to have good personalities…in fact, lots of them probably don’t!

    • Natasha

      He did come to my local university to speak a couple of months ago — I had planned to go, but the event was sold out (which says something right there). The local newspaper had a stupid article about the talk, but all I remember from it was his opening line, which was something like this: ‘People always want to know all sorts of things about me, so I’ll tell you this right off: Boxers.’

  • Tell me this is a true story. Hilarious. I love the comment about him not being nice because it was a Wal-mart. Great character (fictional or otherwise!).

    • Natasha

      Yes, true story. Happened yesterday. See how clean my teeth are?

      I wish I carried around a tape recorder. The Tree Guys were here for two days this week cutting down dead trees and branches from the yard before hurricane season. I heard so many great stories from them and I’m sorry I can only remember a few of them. What I do remember and was able to write down will wend its way into my fiction somehow.

  • Hey there! I moseyed on over after reading your comment on Kayla’s blog 🙂

    First & foremost – I wish my dentist would have interesting things to say. He’s usually just quiet and shuffles through lame dentistry jokes. The horror!

    Never having read Sparks myself, I can’t comment there – but I loathe books that make me cry for days. The Time Travelers Wife? NEVER AGAIN! I had my boyfriend on the phone at 2 am, promising me he would never time travel or go hunting without his clothes. Oi.

    • Natasha

      Hi Melissa —

      Thanks for visiting! I will put The Time Travelers Wife on my must-miss list. I am also on the ‘I don’t think so’ list for seeing The Lovely Bones after slogging thru that book.

  • I’ve never read Nicholas Sparks, but I did see the movie version of The Notebook, which of course made me cry. Someone told me none of his books have a happy ending. Certainly, I don’t require one in every book, but I can’t imagine being a fan of someone who never gives you one.

    Never read The Time Traveler’s Wife, but did read The Lovely Bones and had some problems with it. Generally, I don’t read many best sellers. I’m just contrary that way. Ha! Wouldn’t it be ironic if my novels become best sellers? 😀

  • Hi, Natasha!

    Thanks for checking out my blog & leaving a comment! 🙂 I, too, moseyed over (love how we’re all saying mosey) and am glad I did! This is a really funny (and sooooo true) story. I’ve read a few Nicholas Sparks books, and liked them okay…but that was back in late high school/early college.

    Over spring break, I needed something sort of mindless to read on a trip up to Minneapolis. (From Dallas. By van. With 25 other people. Hence, the book.) I picked up one of his recent novels, The Last Song, and stuck it out all the way through. Man. Now that I’m writing and reading more critically, his writing bugged me quite a bit.

    Anyway! Thanks for stopping by my blog, I’m glad I came to yours, too! Happy weekend to you.

    🙂 Kayla

    • Natasha

      Hi Kayla — Thanks for stopping by. Yikes — 25 people, a van (two vans, I hope?), and 1500 miles each way. I’ll bet you got some good writing fodder!

  • […] she was signing up for… I got my teeth cleaned yesterday, and you know what that means:  another book review from Crystal, my dental […]

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