Love story lessons

Nicholas Sparks’ ‘The Lucky One’ is on its way to theaters. But he’s here today to help you craft a perfect tale.

By Molly Lyons

Nicholas Sparks has sold about 52 million copies of his books, so he knows something about how to write a compelling tale. Hollywood agrees: Seven of his novels have been made into movies. The latest love story, The Lucky One, stars Zac Efron and is due in theaters April 20. Looking to crack Sparks’ best-selling code? “There’s no magic answer,” he cautions. That said, the author has some guidelines on how to weave an authentic love story:

First, determine your character’s ages.  “Age informs dilemma. If you’re going to write a novel about everlasting love, the characters can’t be teenagers,” Sparks says.

Ask questions.  A protagonist without an obstacle doesn’t turn pages. Sparks drums up dilemmas by asking, “what if?”

Decide on the answers.  Sparks says he needs to answer essential questions before he starts writing. “I have to know the age of the characters, I’ve got to know how they meet. I have to know the conflict that’s keeping them apart and what brings them together. Finally, I have to know how I ends,” he says. And fore this author, there are only three possible endings: “Happy, sad or bittersweet.”

Hit the right tone.  “You don’t want to be cliché or melodramatic, and you want it to evoke genuine emotion, and that’s tough,” Sparks says.

Join author Nicholas Sparks and create a story for USA WEEKEND.

It’s your turn to participate in an enthralling story that lives and grows with every contribution! We asked Sparks to help by writing a first and a last sentence to inspire you:

Title: The End of All Things

First sentence: Jasmine Blake thought she understood what love meant until the day she almost died.

Last sentence: She was just falling asleep when the car stopped, and Rick whispered, “We’re home.”

Visit and share your first paragraph (about 100 words.)

Plus, register to win a signed copy of Spark’s latest book.