What SHARKNADO Can Teach Us About Writing

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SHARKNADO is a phenomena that is taking the world by storm. I mean, how can it get better? SHARKS AND TORNADOES! Tonight, SyFy is re-airing the show and we will be holding a #myWANA #Sharknado party on Twitter so we can all share in the goofy fun, because sometimes stories are so BAD they are AWESOME.

But what can writers learn from Sharknado?

Belief is Already Suspended

One mistake new writers make is they feel the need to EXPLAIN, to make an idea PLAUSIBLE. Here’s the thing. The second someone actually decides to give our stories a chance? Belief is already suspended. The Force was better before it was explained. Metachlorians ruined Star Wars. An entire generation had already fallen in love with Star Wars and accepted The Force. We didn’t need to know what it was or what caused it.


Don’t feel the need to break down your idea and make it real. It just has to be “real enough.” Sort of like global warming causing a hurricane so powerful it hurls man-eating sharks at the residents of Los Angeles. We don’t need more than that.

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Not All Good Stories Have to Be Literature

A lot of times, we feel we need to write the next Great American Novel in order to be “real writers.” Yet, fiction serves many purposes, and one of those purposes is to purely entertain. We live in a serious world and are bombarded by reality all the time. Escape and sheer fun are valuable.

Yes, we all know we should be eating organic greens and grilled chicken for longterm health, but what would life be like without funnel cakes, deep-fried Twinkies, or chocolate-covered bacon? That stuff is bad for us yet OH SO GOOD. It’s a vacation from being responsible.

Same with Sharknado. It’s pure laughable brain candy.

Yes, some fiction is meant to highlight injustice and change the world. Yet, a lot of it is just a way readers can unplug and have fun. Fun is food for the soul, so never underestimate that.

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Via Tumblr

We Can’t Predict What Readers Will Fall in Love With

I just returned from NYC and the traditional publishing business looks to what has sold in the past to try and predict what will sell in the future. They are a business and they have to turn a profit. Numbers are what they look to in order to maximize the chances of publishing a hit (or avoiding something people won’t buy).

Sorry, but people have already had too many vampire books.

I met Anne Rice when in NYC and oddly enough, she was strongly discouraged from writing about vampires when she began her writing career. She was told no one would buy a book called Interview with a Vampire. Fellow writers mocked her and told her what a stupid idea it was and that vampires weren’t “real” writing.

Yet, she believed in the story she wanted to tell.

Vampires had long been portrayed as the villain, and Rice wanted to explore what it would be like to BE the monster. What was the vampire’s point of view? When she was writing this story, Rice had no idea that her initial works would create a passion for vampires (and other creatures of the night) that would not only be turned into movies, but that would inspire countless other works about vampires for generations to come.

This is one of the reasons I LOVE the new paradigm. Instead of relying on bean-counters running numbers to predict the human heart, we can just put our work out there and allow chemistry to ignite if it’s meant to be.

This is why it is so critical to just write the story you want to tell. Forget trends. Don’t stop writing your apocalypse book because agents say “no one wants to buy/read another apocalypse book.” There are no new stories. I could toss out the idea of sharks and tornadoes and my version would be different from yours. The telling is what makes it different. So maybe audiences don’t want another chick-lit book…but they might just fall in love with YOURS.

Sharknado proves how utterly predictable audiences can be. Sometimes the right story meets the right timing and magic ignites. So just keep writing. For more about writing and Sharknado, I HIGHLY recommend New York Times Best-Selling Author Jennie Crusie’s post Carpe Sharknado.

And what better antagonist than SHARKS IN A TORNADO? Wish I would have thought of that.

What are your thoughts? What are some other things we can learn from Sharknado (other than “taste” apparently has no bottom limit)? Are you as excited about Sharknado as I am? Have you seen it? Is it craptastic?


Here is some more about Sharknado. It airs tonight at 7/6 CST. Hope to see you at the #MyWANA #Sharknado party!

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

NEXT FRIDAY I will be teaching an on-line course about ANTAGONISTS. Your SHARKNADO is the beating heart of your story. The better the antagonist, the better the story and I am here to help.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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    • Jennifer Cole on July 18, 2013 at 11:21 am
    • Reply

    This post came at such a great time. I am working on a short story for the Writer’s Digest short story competition and I was worried about trying to explain it all but with a short story (4000 is the minimum) every word has to count so I struggled with trying to explain while I told the story.

    But hey! If Sharknado can do it, so can I. I’d like to see the movie if only to laugh. Syfy doesn’t always have the best quality films (but who cares!) yet this looks interesting.

    I can’t help but see the similarity in the titles with Snakes on a Plane. You already know what the movies about. No explanation needed! Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2013 16:13:27 +0000 To: jlynncole@hotmail.com

  1. That is one thing about considering the tradition route that concerns me. If my book is not deemed original it will get turned down without a first read. I am going to continue on and pray for the right agent/publisher to give me my chance.

  2. So much truth in this. Everyone is running to write that bad boy billionaire story…just because. I personally never read vampires until this year. And love them now. And I write historical romance, because I love them. But, according to trends, they are dead. So what! I still love them and love to read them. Great post! i tweeted

  3. If Sharknado wasn’t enough to impress me, the fact that you knew how to spell “metachlorians” blew me away. I always wondered about the spelling of that, LOL. 😉 #GeekyEnglishMajor

  4. Another great post, Kirsten! I loved Sharknado and it was for the reason you said I watched knowing that is wasn’t going to be “realistic.” I get tired of hearing people watch a show or read a book for that matter like Sharknado and say it’s not believable. They are missing the whole point. Sometimes a piece can be just fun. What lessons can be learned from Sharknado? Apparently you can never have too many disasters. I mean, we have sharks, tornados, a ship going down, flooded streets, a car chase, giant waves, a car explosion, a house collapsing and a big of the Hollywood sign killing someone. There’s a disaster for everyone.

  5. True confession time… I am a scifi addict. The schlockier (is that a word?) the monster and the worse the acting is, the happier I am. Sharknado was perfection! I think I worry too much about being as close to reality as I can in my stories. Sharknado lesson – let it rip sometimes 🙂 Great post, Kristen.

  6. I REALLY disliked ‘Interview With the Vampire.’
    Good post, though–kinda like Snakes on a Plane.

  7. I appreciate a good laugh as much as anyone, but I clearly don’t understand why good literature can’t also be vastly entertaining. You make it sound like two different things. Writing can approach a reader on many different levels. Read Dreamer for pure entertainment value, or to see the deeper meanings…a personal choice.

    1. But literature takes a certain voice, interest and skill set. It can be both. But we underestimate how important writing something that’s “just fun” can be. That’s the point. If you have the skill to write fun literature, go for it. But if you want to write junk food, people love that too. Sometimes we just don’t want to think, we just want a good ride.

  8. This brought back memories of people telling me photography is not art. Now I get romance novels are not literature. I’ve learned not to care. I love my photographs and I love to write romances. If one of my books sells in the future – even better. But it is the joy of writing something fun that keeps me motivated. Thanks for another great blog.

  9. great advice ! My problem is coming up with a magic that is my own, and not stolen from someone else for my world. I wonder if there is “open-source” public domain magic ?

    • malindalou on July 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm
    • Reply

    I agree that a concept doesn’t need to be fully explained in order for it to be enjoyable.

    • standonthewall on July 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm
    • Reply

    This is really encouraging. When our heart is put into something, a reader can tell.

  10. Reblogged this on Wing's World.

  11. This is a timely reminder that there are only so many stories out there but it is how we tell them that matters. I worry that I am writing in a crowded market but then in many respects, aren’t we all. The key to selling our books is to make our book stand out and not shy away from what we believe in. Thank you for this wonderful post.

  12. “The Force was better before it was explained.” I love that line. It’s interesting that when reading we often accept the briefest explanation, but when writing we assume our readers will require something more.

  13. It looks like a movie my husband would have LOVED (the worse the better!) and it does indeed seem to prove that ‘taste’ has no bottom, lol. I love fantasy…and Tolkien-esque type Elfs (as opposed to the creepy house-elf creatures from HP). I was told before my first story was even started not to bother. No one wanted to read about that. No one even reads high/epic fantasy any more.
    I do. So I guess I need to prove the naysayers wrong. If I love it, there must be other people out there who also might still enjoy those stories.
    Thanks for reminding us of that.

  14. I know nothing about Sharknado except what you’ve written on this blog. Off hand, it sounds like a parody but I love a good parody and am ready for some laughs. For me, the difference between a good “monster/disaster” film and a bad one is the writing, whether serious or funny. Of course, there are always those “so bad they’re good” movies, but I usually don’t have patience for them.

  15. I moanedwhen I heard about Sharknado. Could it possibly be true. Could someone seriously have thought it throughand liked it. I planned on steering clear away from it, but Kristen, you can turn anything into something desirable. Now, i’m almost at the point of wanting to watch it. Yes, the pen is definitely mightier than the sword in your hands. Lol

  16. You are right. No one can predict what the public will glom onto. Sharknado slipped by me until I caught it on local news and on national news the next day. Long ago I got hooked on Discworld books. When I mentioned them I got a lot of feedback from people who I didn’t see as fantasy readers,

  17. I nominated you for a few blog awards 😉

    • Lalo on July 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm
    • Reply

    Great post. I am a new writer of paranormal romance. I have been an avid reader for years. I read historical romances, thrillers, mysteries, action/adventure, true crime and… of course, scifi.

    A friend at work got me started reading paranormal romance. It was almost like being in a poker game. The first book I read was going great. Vampires, okay, I’m in for vampires, it’s a paranormal book. And then… add werewolves. Come on. But the story is going well so, okay, let’s add some werewolves, I’m good with that. I’ll hang in here and see where this goes.

    Next come the fae. Seriously? Oh okay, I am liking this story so I’ll call your bets and keep reading about the fae. I’m in this game.

    What I found was a very enjoyable genre. With an escape from reality, fun reading and characters I could get involved with, paranormal romance became my genre of choice. I still read mysteries, thrillers, scifi, and contemporary and historical romance. I read for my own personal enjoyment. A book is already an escape to another reality where all everyday rules are suspended. Some authors accomplish this better than others.

    I love your statement that when they pick up a story to read, belief is already suspended. I agree. I know a lot of professional women who love to read paranormal romance. We sidle up it when we first bring it up. But then as soon as we discover we’ve found someone else who loves it, we enjoy sharing books we’ve read and talking about them. It’s fun. Sometimes people just need fun.

  18. I bet that, when it aired, around the country a thousand screenwriters cried out in anguish, “THAT got green-lit but not my masterpiece?” I’m impressed that you made this into a good writing lesson. Makes me want to fit time into my writing schedule for some of my weirder ideas…

    1. It’s the same way most writers feel about 50 Shades, LOL.

  19. Haven’t seen Sharknado, but I think Asylum know what they’re doing, they’ve inherited the Troma mantle (anybody remember ‘Toxic Avenger’)?

  20. I haven’t seen Sharknado yet, but I may join you guys tonight if my boys are asleep by then. 🙂 Thank you for the example of not needing all the explaination. This is especially good for me now because I just wrapped up the first draft of a book that has all kinds of Irish faerie magic in it. I know in my head how I want the magic to work and why, but you’re right, I don’t need to explain every detail. I just need to give a good “show.” 😀

  21. I don’t live in the US and had no idea what Sharknado was and I’m still not sure. However I do agree with your sentiments.

  22. I wish I could see Sharknado – unfortunately we had to dump cable a while back. But once it hits netflix, you bet I’ll check that out, lol! That’s the only reason I’m not gonna hang with you guys tonight at the twitter sharknado party…cheers!

  23. I’ve seen Sharknado and totally LOVED what a God-awful, craptastic piece of cinematic junkfood it is. It’s one of the worst-made, most unbelievable movies ever. So bad it’s awesome. I love it. C’mon…how can you not love a house exploding from the inside out with shark-infested water even though the neighborhood is clearly dry as ever?

    So bad, yet so good. And yes, if people will line up to watch that, why not write and publish any type of book you want? If there’s room in 5″ of water for a Great White, there’s room on the shelf for our writing, too. 🙂

  24. Dondon dondon dondonnnnn dondonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, Land Shark.

    “I just returned from NYC and the traditional publishing business looks to what has sold in the past to try and predict what will sell in the future. They are a business and they have to turn a profit. Numbers are what they look to in order to maximize the chances of publishing a hit (or avoiding something people won’t buy).”

    They deal in the immediate future. They do not have the luxury of a self-publisher capable of catching a wave because of a trend in the industry or sitting for years when their novel finally starts to sell.

    1. BINGO! But I just come back from NYC and was pleasantly surprised. They are learning :D.

  25. I’m a huge believer in “trust the reader” but sometimes it backfires. Some reviewers complain they wish I’d explained more. I would love to know how to teeter on that delicate balance.

    1. Plain truth is we can’t please everyone. Just write the story in your heart and learn the craft so you execute it well. When it comes to style? That is all a matter of personal tastes, so don’t sweat it.

  26. Thank you for the encouragement. I needed this word today…just write4it.

    • Laura Alton on July 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm
    • Reply

    Thank You for posting this I needed to hear it. I am at a point where I am doubting myself and my ideals. Thank You I now remember that ALL ideals are good, no matter how silly they may sometimes sound.

  27. Great timing as always, Kristen! How do you know what’s going on in my head?! Just finishing an unusual post-apocalyptic novel that ISN’T about disasters, so I’m having niggling doubts that it’s not the same as everything else. It’s even funny in places. And it offers helpful solutions. What reader is going to want that? Guess I have to summon up my courage and get Sunstrike launched to find out. Thanks for the moral support at just the right time!

  28. Thank you so much for this. I especially appreciated the section about writing what you love…
    we can just put our work out there and allow chemistry to ignite if it’s meant to be.

    “This is why it is so critical to just write the story you want to tell. Forget trends. Don’t stop writing.” I’m a big fan of Anne Rice. I love vampires and am working on a vampire novel myself. Many of my friends tell me that sub genre is overdone… but that’s where the stars have lead me.

    Thanks for this. There is plenty more I learned from this article, but you have many more comments to read so I’ll make mine short. Thanks again,

    • Kali Anthony on July 19, 2013 at 12:38 am
    • Reply

    Thank you, thank you for this. Part of my manuscript requires a suspension of disbelief which doesn’t need a huge leap of faith, but which has been troubling me. I know in my heart of heart it is a good way to tie things up, the problem is my obsessing about it has frozen me for a couple of weeks. Will ignore that now and keep on writing. Love your work. Serendipity in action again!

  29. Good advice. I agree that one of the great benefits of the new paradigm is in sidestepping the gatekeeping aspect of trad pub that controls ‘what the public want’ without actually knowing what the public really want.

    I have a question which is unrelated to this blog topic, but would love to hear your input to. I have been having an interesting discussion with an author who is a very successful mid-lister, over FB and his blog. He posted a blog recently http://writerlywitterings.com/2013/07/11/end-of-the-series-or-just-a-pause/ where he asked his readers to buy his work new and not to pass it on, as second hand costs sales and could put him out of business. As you can see by my comment to it I disagreed and the discussion continues on his most recent post, about piracy, as well as the FB stuff I can’t link to. I obviously agree with him that piracy is not to be encouraged or participated in, but I find his views on 2nd hand sales problematic and frankly a bit alienating especially in the current economic climate. I do understand his need to make a living, how could I not? But I cannot agree that 2nd hand sales are anything like piracy. I don’t expect you to take time out to follow the link if you don’t have time, but I am finding it an interesting discussion and as I respect your opinion on marketing etc I would very much appreciate your views on this, thanks.

    1. Libraries have been giving people to access to books and writers don’t get paid for anything except the library’s initial purchase of the book (for centuries). So when they lend? Are they pirates? The writer must not believe the last book is worth people buying. I’ve read books for free and loved them so much I purchased one to support the author and maybe even bought the rest of the titles. Lending books has led to many new reader-author relationships for countless years.

      1. Exactly. But I think authors here get a small fee every time the library book is lent, so that is different.

        1. We aren’t burning down garage sales or resale bookstores. I think we should hunt down Aunt Melda for loaning our book to a friend. I KNEW she was a pirate despite those knitting needles and Sunday school groups! It’s always the ones you least suspect :D.

  30. That’s why I write fantasy. I love books and movies that enable you to suspend your disbelief for a while and just enjoy. Give me a star trek, witch, dragon or whatever any day! Reminds me of the movie “Wanted” with Angelina Jolie, I mean seriously I know you can’t shoot a bullet out of a gun and make it ‘bend’ around an object, but holy crap it worked in the movie and I loved watching it! Thanks for the post Kristen. Sorry I missed the twitter party 🙁 next time

  31. Reblogged this on Cynthia Stacey and commented:
    Love this post by Kristen Lamb, author of Rise of the Machines-Human Authors in a Digital World!

  32. I still can’t get past something being so popular named ‘Sharknado.’

    • Chrstine Ahern on July 19, 2013 at 10:28 am
    • Reply

    I have been reading your blog for months now and have learned and enjoyed a great deal. A nice way to start my morning. I love this advice. My current YA novel incorporates people turning into animals and trees. One of the people in my critique group keeps asking me how this could happen. What would happen on a cellular level? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. It just happens. Because I say so.That’s the beauty of writing!

    • Peggy West on July 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm
    • Reply

    I have a protagonist who is so helpful and perfect that I can hardly stand her. She makes a great big mistake in the last third of the book and I have wondered if I have to explain it over and over again. Now I think not. Her mistake works — it’s exactly what she would do. thank you for your posts.

  33. That was great. You’ve pinpointed something I have been doing. Because I am a scientist I feel the need to explain everything. Not necessary you say…I agree in fiction. Definitely detracts from the writing. Thank you.

    1. You are a scientists and you like fiction, what is wrong with explaining it. WHAT MORE IN SCIENCE FICTION. Left up for the imagination, sometimes it has to be explained. I have never been to MARS or know how to get there. Not everybody is into science to understand unless it is explained. You do not know the IQ or the educational background of each reader so to whom do you direct your novel to. Write a good story and let the readers find you, what more on the Internet like FACEBOOK. And some like Twitter more to promote their persona and books.

  34. You are always informative and entertaining and this was spot on! I now have a new favorite word:

  35. I love all of the Syfy Channel’s horrible movies; Piranahconda, Sharktapus, etc. I usually love dissecting them to see why they work or don’t work, mostly paying attention to the dialogue. I was a little disappointed in Sharknado because the dialogue wasn’t as nails-on-chalkboard bad as I expected. It redeemed itself when I not only had to suspend my belief, but had to instead, take my belief out behind the shed and shoot it.

    1. “It redeemed itself when I not only had to suspend my belief, but had to instead, take my belief out behind the shed and shoot it.”

      LOL Perfect! That’s why I watch SciFi movies, too!

  36. When we began to write strictly to please the masses or based on what we THINK they will like, we are in trouble. Write well, write from your heart and they will come.

  37. This is so true.

    We read and watch fiction to escape reality. So trying to make it as real as possible defeats the purpose of that.

    I tell that story I want to tell. And sometimes I get a little goofy with it. That’s when I have the most fun.

  38. I have an idea for a couple of different stories that I feared would be “too far out.” However, we now live in a world with sparkly vampires and spanking billionaires being completely accepted. Therefore: damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

  39. Reblogged this on These Foolish Things and commented:
    I am sharing this because it has valuable information and (ahem. Cough) I want to win something. But the advise is REALLY good.

  40. Thanks, Kristen, for such an inspiring post! I shared it on Facebook as well as on my blog – it’s more validation for me and my writing, since I am a Visionary/Metaphysical novelist writing for the new paradigm. I totally trust what my Muses give me (well, most of the time…they really do challenge me!), and I let my characters tell me their story. I really appreciate reading that others do the same, and that it’s okay! Scary, bucking tradition. But totally worth it. 🙂

  41. Reblogged this on Hotel California and commented:
    Personally, I won’t be watching Sharknado, but I do wholeheartedly believe that nobody can please everyone all of the time. When it comes to writing, there’s a great deal of pressure to get it right, to avoid cliches and to come up with that one original idea. If I took all of the advice to heart I’d be a complete mess. So it’s a pleasant surprise to read Kristen Lamb’s blog post and come away feeling refreshingly relaxed about writing. I write because there’s something inside that tells me I must and I’m not concerned with the rules. For me, writing is a need and the moment it becomes a chore will be the day I throw in the towel.

  42. What good thoughts! I love that you wrote this post. I keep exploring different types of writing and as a former literary publicist, I KNOW I should stick to one genre. Unfortunately, I love trying new things and challenging myself with new ideas. I’ll just keep on keeping on then. 🙂

  43. 1. Write what you love.
    2. Love what you write.
    3. Read Kristen’s blog, and comment when appropriate.

    • Jason Gallagher on August 27, 2013 at 11:40 pm
    • Reply

    I have not seen Sharknado, but I have seen some clips, and heard the hype; it looks truly awful! I loved Star Wars before metachlorians, and the truth is, I loved it even more after! I love explanations, and I want a certain degree of “realism” in books, even if they are about things that are not real. Science Fiction especially, needs to establish a set of rules, and then stick by then. The first season of Heroes was amazing and universally loved. We knew what each character’s super powers were, and what there limitations were too. There was a great balance. In the following seasons, for me, I felt like they just wrote in super powers to unexplain situations. Superpowers that undid problems, or counteracted other superpowers – sloppy writing. I’m not a scientist, but I know what the rules of hurricanes, tornadoes, and sharks enough to know there isn’t a glean of reality. So, I guess, I like explanation, rules, and continuity. But then again, I’m the same guy who is still upset that “The Never Ending Story” actually ended!

    Thanks again for an insightful post Kristen.

  1. […] What SHARKNADO Can Teach Us About Writing […]

  2. […] Recently my blog guru teacher, Kristen Lamb, posted this wonderful bit on her blog: http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/what-sharknado-can-teach-us-about-writing/ […]

  3. […] Apocalypse Torch for the week. It is so tempting to write more about zombies and Kardashebola or Sharknado and maybe we will. But, today, we are going to talk about the apocalypse—what it is and what […]

  4. […] Literary news: The Write Life C. J. Henderson What Sharknado can teach us about writing […]

  5. […] do love Kristen Lamb’s post, “What SHARKNADO Can Teach Us About Writing“. She gives us permission to dive into what we want to write about and provides examples of […]

  6. […] and I finally watched Sharknado the other night. I’d read about it on Kristen Lamb’s blog and it sounded right up hubbie’s street: low budget B Movie with awful special effects […]

  7. […] do love Kristen Lamb’s post, “What SHARKNADO Can Teach Us About Writing“. She gives us permission to dive into what we want to write about and provides examples of […]

  8. […] Literary news: The Write Life C. J. Henderson What Sharknado can teach us about writing […]

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