Safe Haven, Part 1

I bought a Nicholas Sparks book because I liked the cover, title, and premise. Yep, I am generally a sucker for the chick escapes crazy abusive man starts over in bucolic small town (always as a waitress) meets hero With A Problem etc. I had a vague idea that Sparks was a bigshot writer dude, but didn’t realize he had written that horrible Nights in Rodanthe, the movie version of which I could not watch even though it starred Diane Lane and Richard Gere. That’s really saying something. The Notebook was okay (talking about the movie ~ didn’t read either novel).


This Safe Haven book ~ MY GOD COULD IT START ANY SLOWER!? Do we give Sparks a pass because he’s had major success? Were his other novels total yawners for the first 100 pages? These people are doing the most mundane things and having the most trivial conversations ~ building character, I realize, but gak. We get the eensiest hints of a Terrifying Past for our heroine until finally it all comes spilling out in backstory. And then we get Kevin the psycho’s POV (fun!). But Katie’s past is so much more interesting than her present, and her abuser (gotta say it) more interesting than the hero, who is Mr. Bland. Kevin is a CHARACTER. Alex is a Golden Retriever. At least so far ~ I’m now on page 212.

But that’s not what I came here to rant about today (I’ll continue this reviewish thingie when I finish the book). I wanna talk about grammar. What do y’all think of this:

[…] and while the four of them were off pointing at the fish, she’d laughed at something he’d said and he’d felt a spark of attraction, reminding him of what he had once had. [p21]

Is that awful, or is it just me? I never write past-past that way, with all those had-hads. Yucky.

K, that’s all. I’m sure you’ll be waiting with bated breath for the rest of this.

12 responses to “Safe Haven, Part 1

  1. I fucking hate scads of hads. I see them all over the place, too. Almost every time a writer says someone had done something, it reads much stronger if someone did something.

    … pointing at the fish, she laughed at something he said and he felt a spark of attraction, reminding him …

    … is much better.


  2. I had been going to say what Don had said, but he had said it already and his having had to say it reminded me of the time I had been had.


  3. I seem to recall a discussion of this on MW once, and I think it was Zen who noted that you really only need the one had, to put the pointer on the timeline back another notch. Once you’re occupying that space on the timeline, whatever happened there is just past tense.

    I’m sometimes guilty of too many had’s, but (I hope) it’s a first draft problem that I catch in revision.


  4. I must admit Zen knows what he’s talking about when he steers clear of politics and personal criticisms.


  5. Your instincts were correct. It’s awful. Good gawd. Even if you don’t know any grammar at all, you can hear that sentence clanking and lurching until, one hopes, it eventually falls off the page and onto the floor in a crumpled heap. A crumpled, smoldering heap. Upside down. Wheels still spinning.


  6. Yes, one had to set you back in time and then just write in simple past. Either end the scene to get back to where you were or make it obvious some other way that the reverie is over.

    I’m done with Safe Haven and there were some good things about it, but mostly I didn’t like Sparks’ style. This had way too little sex for a romance, and not enough drama for a thriller. Honestly I don’t know what ppl see in him. The main characters were so BLAND.


  7. Recently there was a piece written by a PhD, on Psychology Today, about JFK’s dad’s best romance. And OMG, it was awful. Ah, here it is:

    I don’t think he was guilty of too many “hads” though.


  8. Pingback: Safe Haven, Part II | Light Motifs

  9. Sparks’ audience is a Coldwater Creek audience. Successful franchises all around.


  10. As for the PhD/JD, didn’t notice the hads, was put off by the stuff in parentheses. And his odd naivete.

    Favorite Clare Booth Luce story: at an event, she opened the door for Dorothy Parker, smiled her snarky smile, and said “Age before beauty.” Parker swept through, smiled HER snarky smile, and answered “Pearls before swine!”


    • Hah!

      Funny about CC. On my old blog I had a pic of me in cute blue shoes and Don noted that my skirt was tres frumpy ~ it was from CC. I’ve since dumped it.


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