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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Can authors Jump the Shark? Darin Kennedy (The Mussorgsky Riddle)

Jumping the Shark

In 2015, I suspect it’s impossible to not have heard the phrase “jumping the shark,” but for those of you out there who aren’t familiar with the term, it refers to “the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality, signaled by a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of gimmick in an attempt to keep viewers' interest, which is taken as a sign of desperation, and is seen by viewers to be the point at which the show strayed irreparably from its original premise.”

The term specifically references the episode of Happy Days where Fonzie performs some waterski derring-do out on the ocean and literally jumps over a shark to prove his courage. So iconic has this idea become that Henry Winkler—who played Arthur Fonzarelli on Happy Days during my formative years—came back to television on Arrested Development many years later and literally jumped a shark on a pier as the writers and cast dared the producers to cancel the show.

We all have our series of television shows, movies, books, comics where we think the rubicon has been passed and things just aren’t the same. Scrappy Doo, anyone? There are entire websites devoted to such pursuits.

So… as writer, when do we know when we’ve gone too far? How do we avoid jumping the shark?

My debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle came out back in January and when I wrote it, I had intended for it to be a standalone and for the characters and events of that story to end with that book. But back in December, just before the book came out, I had a revelation. One of the story threads from the first book unraveled just enough I could pull it out and write a second novel, and scarily enough, with almost all the elements of the first. Also, I was listening to a lot of Stravinsky along with my usual diet of Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Holst, and of course, John Williams. How could I not be inspired?

The big question, however, was this. Should I write a sequel just because I can?

Sequels can be wonderful—The Empire Strikes Back—or less than wonderful—Moonraker. I’m happy to say that I’m 77K into this new book with a working title of The Stravinsky Intrigue and that characters and story elements from the first book I thought long over and done have come full circle and into their own with this book. Do I live in fear that this one could be less “I am your father” and more “Fonzie on waterskis”? Of course. But I don’t think so. I’m falling in love with the characters all over again and the characters with each other. And I’m about to drop the boom on my main character—again—so the next few weeks should be fun as I finish this first draft.

So tell me, kind readers… What shows / movies / books / comics that you love have jumped the shark? When was the moment it jumped? What was it about that moment that made it the turning point where the show you knew and loved went downhill?

And writers… as you work on sequels to your novels, especially the popular format of series, what do you do to avoid leaping over toothy fishes while wearing swimming trunks and a leather jacket?

by Darin Kennedy
Paperback, 350 pages
Published January 12th 2015
Psychic Mira Tejedor possesses unique talents that enable her to find anything and anyone, but now she must find a comatose boy wandering lost inside the labyrinth of his own mind. Thirteen-year-old Anthony Faircloth hasn’t spoken a word in almost a month and with each passing day, his near catatonic state worsens. No doctor, test, or scan can tell Anthony’s distraught mother what has happened to her already troubled son. In desperation, she turns to Mira for answers, hoping her unique abilities might succeed where science has failed.

At their first encounter, Mira is pulled into Anthony’s mind and finds the child’s psyche shattered into the various movements of Modest Mussorgsky’s classical music suite, Pictures at an Exhibition. As she navigates this magical dreamscape drawn from Anthony’s twin loves of Russian composers and classical mythology, Mira must contend with gnomes, troubadours, and witches in her search for the truth behind Anthony’s mysterious malady.

The real world, however, holds its own dangers. The onset of Anthony’s condition coincides with the disappearance of his older brother’s girlfriend, a missing persons case that threatens to tear the city apart. Mira discovers that in order to save Anthony, she will have to catch a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets contained in Anthony’s unique mind from ever seeing the light.

About the Author:
Darin Kennedy, born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Bowman Gray School of Medicine. After completing family medicine residency in the mountains of Virginia, he served eight years as a United States Army physician and wrote his first novel in 2003 in the sands of northern Iraq.

His debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, was born from a fusion of two of his lifelong loves--classical music and world mythology--and was published by Curiosity Quills Press in January of 2015. He is currently hard at work on his next novel. His short stories can be found in various publications, many of which are available through Amazon, and most of which have been collected in his two short story compilations - The April Sullivan Chronicles: Necromancer for Hire & The Sicilian Defense and Other Dark Tales - also available on Amazon.

Doctor by day and novelist by night, he writes and practices medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina. When not engaged in either of the above activities, he has been known strum the guitar, enjoy a bite of sushi, and rumor has it he even sleeps on occasion.

He is represented by Stacey Donaghy at Donaghy Literary Group.


  1. I like a series, where the books can stand alone, but I meet the characters in subsequent books and can keep up on what is happening in their world. I also like a one time stand alone. I am trying to be more diligent with the trilogies...where you must read on to find the ending. Where to draw the line...I don't know. As long as it is a good book, I believe it will be read.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. I've become a big fan of trilogies. Like you said, you get the excitement of a series but with a known ending guaranteed.

  2. I can't think of a series where the series jumped the shark but there are several tv shows that I can think of.

    Charmed...when they introduced Billie and her sister. The show just went down hill fast after that.

    Roseanne...when they won the lottery. I know it was supposed to be a least that's what the end of the show said but the episodes after that were just dumb and made no sense at all.

    Dracula when his companion gets beat up really bad and there wasn't a lot more blood shed over it.

    Being Human *American version* When the werewolves try to join a pack and it doesn't go well.

  3. Supernatural keeps jumping it and jumping it - but I love Sam and Dean so much, and they manage to make it seem so "yep, this was just fine" that I find myself not caring. Or maybe it's because they keep doing it bigger and bigger that the previous ones seem inconsequential.

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