What YA Writers Can Learn from TV

Published December 29, 2010 by LS Murphy

Television, how I love you, but lately you have been getting on my last nerve.

Coming from someone who can honestly admit to a minor TV addiction, that’s saying something.

Why? And what does this have to do with YA writers?

Well, both answers are one in the same.

Raise your hands if you USED to watch House or any version of Law & Order.


Yep, I’m talking about series that go on too long.

For me, it gets repetitive and boring. When it gets to the point that I don’t care about the characters, no matter how awesome they may be, they’ve jumped the shark. This holds just as true for a book series as well as a TV show.

For those who don’t know what “jump the shark means”, it’s pretty easy to define. It’s that moment in a TV show when it ceases to be worth watching. The phrase comes from the infamous Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumped over a shark while wearing skis AND HIS LEATHER JACKET. No one in their right mind would get in the water in a leather jacket, much less Fonzie. Get real.

Television shows frequently jump the shark. But so do books.

There are a bunch of great book series out there, and then there are ones that should have ended after three books, or even after one.

Sorry, Stephenie Meyer. I’m going to pick on you for a moment.

I loved Twilight. I cried as I read New Moon. The chapter in Eclipse where Bella listened to Edward and Jacob talk about her, LOVED IT.

Then there’s Breaking Dawn. Cue shark… And we jumped it in Chapter 1.

Yes, I know it’s sold a gazillion copies and the movie adaptations are equally successful, but that doesn’t mean the book didn’t jump the shark.

Want specifics? Okay, I’ll point out 2 things. First, in the first three books, NOBODY called Jasper “Jaz”. Sorry, didn’t happen. Minor thing? Yep, it sure is, but minor things can spoil the bigger things. Second, Bella stopped being Bella in the first chapter. She was actually happy about going through the wedding ceremony. That’s not my Bella. That’s not the Bella who wanted nothing to do with any type of wedding except maybe a drive through Vegas style. It didn’t ring true to a character that, up to that point, I could relate to on an emotional level. And that’s where Meyer’s books thrive, on emotion. Change the character and you change the emotion.

The Twilight Saga went one book too many. Had it ended with Eclipse, there wouldn’t have been any backlash for Breaking Dawn.

It’s not the first, nor will it be the last, series to go one book (or two or three) too many.

So, writers, when you are planning your series, keep that phrase in mind. Don’t allow the love you have for your characters force you to jump the shark. Don’t allow pressure of the masses force you to write another book in your series, causing you to…Yep, jump the shark.

It’s your baby. End it when you know it’s write…er, right.



8 comments on “What YA Writers Can Learn from TV

  • I liked reading your blog. You made some very good points. As a writer, I hope I don’t jump sharks. I think the shark jumping you spoke about was dealing more with the money involved than with the writing. Espicially the Twillight series. I feel because of the money that is involved they feel they have to go on. You did a great job.

  • Hi,
    Enjoyed the read. You are so right, a lot of shows can go on for too long, and they do get boring. I got sick of watching House not long after it started, and the Twilight series seemed to be the same thing over and over.

  • Yes! I like to pretend Twilight was a trilogy, and I do not know of this Breaking Dawn people speak of.

    There’s no disappointment like a book you love having a bad sequel.

      • Very well said! There are way too many series out there (at least in science-fiction and fantasy land, where I do most of my reading) that just go on for too long. Either they reach what should have been a good stopping point (but then they don’t) …or they kind of fizzle out, as the writers say to themselves, “How can I drag this story out foreeeeeever?”

      • Thank you, Madigan. SciFi and fantasy are the worst about dragging out a series. There aren’t too many that can go past three without feeling worn down!
        Thanks for reading.

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