What Sharknado Taught Me About Characters

Because of course a chainsaw is weapon of choice against a great white

Because of course a chainsaw is weapon of choice against a great white

Hubbie 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 that’s a bit tongue in cheek and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I don’t share in his enjoyment and fully intended to go to bed. But the movie was just so darn awful I couldn’t tear myself away. Not being as used to such movies I kept saying “but what about..?” and “that wouldn’t happen..” Then realised I was talking about a movie where sharks were sucked up into a tornado and didn’t suffocate, where sharks could swim through storm drains and jump twenty feet into the air.

However it was all about different levels of suspended disbelief. I could accept all the things to do with the sharks – it was a science fiction movie after all. I could just about accept that you could blow a hurricane apart with a MacGyver home-made bomb (although I’m sure there are plenty of people living in tornado paths that wish it was true.) The bit I struggled with most, however, was character motivation.

Safe on the stairs? I don't think so!

Safe on the stairs? I don’t think so!

People are people, whether there are sharks falling from the sky or spinning round in a waterspout or not.

So, if a mother was sat on the stairs with her daughter watching her husband being eaten alive by a giant shark, wouldn’t she at least climb a bit higher up the stairs away from the bloody water and body parts? And if a man drove halfway across town to rescue said daughter, would he stop in the path of sharks to rescue a stranger?

Aside from the dire acting and the awful script, the actions of the characters just weren’t believable. I could accept the sharks and the bombs and all that, but I didn’t give two hoots about the characters.

What I took away from the movie (apart from a vivid nightmare about genetically altered wolves which made me wish Horror was my genre of choice) was that you can get people to believe anything if you write it with conviction, but you have to get the character motivation right. With authentic characters, who have clear goals and believable motivation, you can sell anything. Even flying sharks.

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