Sep 01, 2003 | From Nick The Wedding Writing Notes

The Wedding, while written relatively quickly, was exceptionally challenging when it came to the structure. There were, in essence, seven different levels of the story occurring simultaneously, and the difficulty arose in trying to blend them seamlessly together in such a way as to never confuse the reader. Two of the levels are obvious. The first concerns Wilson and how he courts Jane while preparing for the wedding – i.e. the “love story.” The second level concerns the preparation for the wedding itself. These first two primary levels were easy to conceive and write; it was the other five sub-levels that presented problems. Those were as follows:

First, the reader needed to understand what brought Wilson and Jane to this sad point in their marriage; i.e. the reader needed to feel the thirty years of “innocent neglect” as Wilson termed it. I needed to describe various significant events that had occurred over the course of their marriage or the story wouldn’t make sense.

Second, problems in a thirty-year marriage can’t realistically be fixed in a single week; thus, another level had to do with changes Wilson had been making since their last anniversary. The reader needed to see Wilson making honest efforts at improving his marriage for at least a year. In this way, Jane – and the reader—would realize Wilson was serious about changing.

Third, if the reader only knew Wilson’s faults over the period of their marriage, they might wonder why Jane had fallen in love with him in the first place. Thus, another level dealt with how Wilson and Jane had originally met and fallen in love.

From there, I had to run parallels from that original “courting” story to the week spent in preparation for the wedding. This helps to flesh out the novel by creating a sense of déjà vu, and help build dramatic tension.

Finally, since the novel was a follow-up to The Notebook, Noah had to have a story as well, one that paralleled The Notebook; i.e. unconditional love, and the magic of seeing their love last through anything.

In essence then, there were seven levels in the novel:

  Level 1—Wilson courting Jane over the course of a week
  Level 2 – Preparations for the wedding
  Level 3 – How Wilson and Jane originally courted.
  Level 4 – Description of their 30 year marriage and Wilson’s “innocent neglect.”
  Level 5 – Wilson’s attempts to improve the marriage in the past year
  Level 6 – Parallels between original courting and new courting.
  Level 7 – Noah’s story

Anytime there are seven different levels in a short novel, complexity becomes an issue. Yet, the novel was made even more complex by the fact that each of the levels had to be told in a linear fashion and flow together as a single story. By that, I mean, each level had to have it’s own beginning, middle and end, and each level had to fit into the overall story in an appropriate way. Getting the balance just right was especially challenging, because I didn’t want the reader to notice the distinctness of these levels, but rather wanted them to read the novel as a whole.

Another difficulty arose from the fact that because Wilson and Jane had been married for thirty years, I couldn’t let the reader “learn” about Wilson and Jane through dialogue. Jane couldn’t, for instance, ask Wilson whether he had any siblings, or what his hobbies were. People married for thirty years often speak in short-hand; thus, I had to find a way to let the reader get to understand the characters without “get-to-know you” dialogue, and I had to structure the remaining “short-hand” dialogue in a way that it felt as if the reader was in the room “listening in” and still understanding exactly what was happening.

Still, despite the challenges, the writing proceeded relatively smoothly; there were only two rough spots. Halfway through the book, I realized that the story of Wilson and Jane’s original courting wasn’t linear; rather, it was a jumbled set of memories. Originally, I’d written the story of their first meeting and their first date, talked about their marriage, went back to the first kiss they’d ever shared, jumped forward to having children, went back to the marriage proposal, went backward again to Wilson’s final year in law school, then jumped forward again to half-way through their marriage. Each of those scenes had originally been intricately woven into the novel, and I had to remove them, reorder them, then change them to “fit” the scenes going on around them. That, my friends, is the beauty of fiction. I’m allowed to make things “fit.” Still, it wasn’t exactly easy to do.

The second challenge was coming up with something wonderfully romantic that Wilson could do for Jane on their “date.” It had to be big enough for readers to believe it had been the “anniversary gift’ he’d been planning for a year, but also had to fit within the events of the story. Believe it or not, simply thinking up that evening took nearly two weeks.

Once the novel was completed, editing was minor. It took less than a week to complete the editing process.

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Nicholas Sparks