Writing Lessons from Bad Movies

This time, we’re tackling the best of the bad movies; Sharknado.

To begin, I loved Sharknado.  It is a bad movie, but so much is redeemed in its self-awareness and humor that even Tara Reid can be forgiven.  Ian Ziering is better than the movie deserved, the cinematography is stellar, the tone is just right; it is a wonderful.  The story, pacing, CGI, other actors, ex-machina driven plot, characters and just about everything else would make the movie impossible to deal with, but the movie walks right along that fine line between taking itself too seriously and knowing the shoot took an extra week because everyone was laughing too much during the process.

I watched the first movie with my wife and brother on a Wednesday night and we all stayed up way too late.  My wife and I watched Sharknado 2 the following Thursday and had no regrets.  We started Sharknado 3 on Friday, but that proved to be a bit too much Sharknado for us so we have not yet finished number three.  I’m sure it’ll be alright.

Long story short; go watch Sharknado if you, like me, missed the initial social media madness  around this bad, but oh so good, movie.  When you’re done, come on back and check out the writing lessons learned from watching these amazing movies.

Small Details Matter

Sharknado 2 was full of fake business names like Parts Authority (sponsoring a baseball game) and Yolo B Us.  Hilarious and they filled out the world.  We can’t hope for full suspension of disbelief as hammer head sharks pound into the Empire State Building or John Heard grabs his favorite barstool from a hatchback, but for a few brief moments we can believe that navy seal(or marine, something)/champion surfer/bar owner/divorcee/absentee father father, Fin can actually save the day.  And we want that day to be saved because the world is kinda, sorta hashed out.

There’s fun in the small details.  They help build up the world and give the characters a more realistic setting for their adventures.  Give worlds a Yolo B Us, give the audience a more complete world.

Know When to Use a One Dimensional Character

Sharknado has a stoner bus driver, Sharknado 2 has an old high school flame.  There’s a money hungry shark catcher, a heavy drinker, a former baseball great; the movies are full of characters without any depth whatsoever.  They work for the movie and serve their purpose for adding humor or pushing a plot line.  Go check out the IMDB page for Sharknado.  I counted 8 last names in the entire character list.  Only 8 characters were given full names, but there are dozens of actual line-speaking characters in the movie.  In Sharknado 2, I don’t think they even say the mayor character’s name.

Audiences know what to expect from certain character types.  Save some time by utilizing a one dimensional character every so often.


Familiar is Fun

These movies use a ton of cameos.  Most of the jokes only work because we know the actors and the character types.  We know the cliches and the funny terms.  The whole movie is one big inside joke and we the audience feel like we’re part of something because we laugh at Robert Hays flying a plane and making a crack about chicken or fish.  The blatant pandering is overlooked because it is fun.

I have no idea how to pull off a ‘cameo’ appearance in a book, but using familiar ideas or concepts, phrases and jokes, is certainly done all the time to get a laugh and bring the audience on board.  Reference!


Disobeying the Laws of Physics is Always Funny

Sharknado proves one thing; physics are a suggestion.  The head of the Statue of Liberty rolling through streets despite not actually being able to roll? That’s funny.


For the love of all that is good, write what you want to write.

Sharknado is a dumb, dumb, dumb concept and I am so happy the writers shared it with the world.  Write what you want.  Write how you want.  Write about leprechauns with leprosy fighting licorice eating lycanthropes.  Someone will enjoy it.  I’d read the crud out ill leprechauns and lycanthropes.  Sharknado proves that even if you’re the only that gets the joke, write it down and see what happens.


Thanks for reading!


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