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Jumping the Shark

You know those moments when a book or a series of books just goes a little too sideways? When the author uses some crazy plot twist to make things work, as a substitute for good writing? Well, I happens to every writer from time to time. There are even terms for it, but my favorite has to be “Jumping the Shark.” Why? Because I remember the episode well.

It was Hollywood (Part 3) from Happy Days originally aired September 20, 1977. In parts one and two, the Cunninghams accompanied Fonzie (Henry Winkler) to Hollywood as he’s been discovered and a director thinks he is the next James Dean. Turns out, they like Ritchie (Ron Howard) and want to sign him to a 5 year contract. He must decide between Hollywood and college. The Fonz is challenged by the ‘California Kid’ (Hollywood’s equivalent Fonz) to perform a dangerous stunt, jumping a shark on water skis. (Watch an excerpt from the episode below)

Fonzie was cool, but never a water skier. However, clad in swim trunks, a life preserver belt strapped over his signature leather jacket, he climbed on to the skis, and did it. Horrible. Even as a kid, I thought it was horrible.  But did I stop being a fan of ‘Happy Days’? No.

Infused with some better writing, the series went on to be successful until 1984, and then went into syndication. Old episodes actually were re-aired on ABC while new episodes were being filmed, and were titled “Happy Days Again.” Overall the series  aired for 10 years, from 1974 top 1984, and ran in syndication for years.

Someone tell you this book or this story of yours doesn’t work for them. Maybe they even say they are no longer a fan of yours? Take heart. Maybe you just ‘jumped the shark.’ Maybe they just don’t like that story, or certain words that you used. However, maybe, just maybe you’re the next Happy Days, and will go on to great success for years to come.

 Your useless trivia fact for the day, brought to you by troylambertwrites.com, and the Samuel Elijah Johnson series. Also thanks to the letter “e” without which this post would have been impossible.

Published inAdvice for Authors