Barbara Barrett and Plot Twists as Crowd Pleasers

B_Barrett_65 _darToday, Barbara Barrett, whose latest book from The Wild Rose Press, Saved by the Salsa, will be released later this year, is our guest. Her topic, television’s new take on plot twists. Since season finales are popping up all over, this is quite timely, especially as it relates to contemporary romance writers.

Ever since the days of the first “Dallas” (are you old enough to remember?), cliffhangers have become the hallmark of the season finale. (Remember Bobby in the shower negating his death the previous season?) It’s that time of year again when either the climax the show has been building to all season is the big pay-off or some new plot twist from out of the blue throws gets viewers talking all summer until fall when the follow through occurs. As I write this, I’m prepping myself for the season finale of “Scandal,” which thrives on plot twists every episode.

Like “Scandal,” perhaps in part due to the high bar set by its thrills and chills, other network series are turning to the “finale-like” spin throughout the past season. Case in point: “Person of Interest.” Although their previews would have you believe the end was near for Detective Fusco as the team got closer to putting away “HR” and his henchmen, Fusco survived, but in the last few minutes of that episode, Carter was gunned down and died within seconds. I loved that character. In my opinion, she made the show a little more human. Since that episode, the show has moved off a whole direction.

A little earlier in the season, Red John was identified, captured and killed on “The Mentalist.” This was the eerie tale of the diabolical serial killer that had been woven throughout the first five seasons. Red John was the raison d’être for Patrick Jayne joining the California Bureau of Investigation, because RJ killed Jayne’s wife and daughter. By late 2013, the Red John story had come to an end (thankfully) and Jayne and some of his cronies moved to an entirely new venue with the FBI in Texas.

More recently, in a move I certainly didn’t see coming, Will Gardner on “The Good Wife” was gunned down by his client in the courtroom and died shortly thereafter. Another shocker that had viewers talking, texting and emailing each other the next day. I liked Will. Not as much as I liked Carter, but he was usually one of the good guys, although his on-again/off-again relationship with Alicia had grown a little strained of late. Whose relationship wouldn’t hit the skids when the junior partner set out on her own to form a new firm and took many of the best clients with her?

What I see happening on network TV is an elevation of the midseason plot twist. Viewers have known for months that “How I Met Your Mother” was in its final season. It was no surprise to see those characters go off to greener pastures, but these sudden, unexpected deaths of established characters have been different.

When done in style, which I see being the case with “Person of Interest” and “The Good Wife,” there’s something to be learned by those of us who write, even though as romance writers we’re tied to the Happily Ever After ending. These sudden game changers need to be unexpected but tied directly to the plot line, they need to make sense, and they need to progress the story.

Have I been doing that with my plots? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t consider the sudden twist in the future. Readers like to be surprised and then be able to say, “Oh, I saw that coming a mile away.” As for the loss of favorite characters, probably not. I think I’ll keep watching these series to see how they fare before I get too carried away.

How about you? Has one of your favorite TV characters suddenly disappeared? Do you think this is a good move for network TV?


Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa SavedbytheSalsa_w8725_750state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” She has published two romance novels with The Wild Rose Press, And He Cooks Too and Driven to Matrimony. A third, Saved by the Salsa, the first in the Sullivan’s Creek series, is coming later in 2014.

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Barbara Barrett and Plot Twists as Crowd Pleasers — 10 Comments

  1. Thanks for coming at the last minute, Barbara! Great post. I don’t LIKE when people I’ve learned to love disappear. I’m still grieving over Henry Blake from M*A*S*H*!

    • Thanks so much for having me, Liz. This is my home, contemporary romance, so I’m pleased to have been invited to be part of it. I think Henry Blake’s death was one of the first shockers TV threw at us viewers. At the time, I was devastated because he added such a zany quirkiness to the show. Fortunately for the producers and us viewers, they found Henry Morgan to join the show as Col. Potter and the beat kept on going. Not every show has been as successful.


  2. Thanks, Barbara! This is a fun post. I try to learn something from well (and poorly)-handled moments in favorite television shows. You’re right about Person of Interest leading us to believe it was Fusco. Yet, somehow when Mr. Reese kissed Taraji’s character, I knew she was the one that was leaving. 😉

    I was really surprised by the How I Met Your Mother ending, but I was a lot more shocked to see the reactions from fans. It really seemed like people either loved it or hated it. I loved the final episode, despite it not ending the way I would have liked, because it felt true to the characters.

    • Hi, Reese. Thanks so much for commenting. I’m sure anyone reading my post must have thought I spend too much time in front of the tube as a writer. Truth be told, it’s a bad habit I picked up in high school when I was studying for school and it’s followed me through the rest of my life. More often than not, it’s on as background noise rather than music. I lose concentration with music. Go figure. Anyway, I’m glad to receive the reactions to these plot twists from found someone who watches some of the same programs I do.


  3. As a reader and a viewer, I love plot twists that I don’t see coming. As a writer I try to provide a little surprise in most of my plots. I haven’t come up with anything as shocking as Will Gardner’s death, but I’ll keep trying! Love the title of your new book!

  4. Jana, Glad you like the title of my book. As for plot twists, I guess I try for them at the same time planting as much foreshadowing and clues as possible so the reader can say, “Oh, it was there in front of me all the time and I never guessed.”


  5. I used to love the Mentalist when it first started, but got so sick of Red John, that I quit watching after two years. Glad to know they finally caught the guy.

    I do like plot twists, though. I think they make stories more interesting, and it creates suspense.

    • Shirley, If you like plot twists, you should check out “Scandal,” if you don’t watch it already. There’s a twist about every 15 minutes on it!

      As for “The Mentalist,” each of the last few years I’ve kept checking to see if it got cancelled or not. Perhaps the Red John story didn’t appeal to others as well.


  6. Loved the post. The one series you mentioned that I am familiar with is Person of Interest, and this season after her death, the storylines have been quite different. As for character deaths–I more see the disappearance of shows I like! Although Henry Blake’s death was totally uncalled for LOL> Looking forward to you new book!

    • Barbara, after Carter’s death, I think the “world” of “Person of Interest” changed from New York City and a police procedural to the world in general and a thriller trying to save the world from other parties wanting to control it through the machine. Whether this works or not remains to be seen. The two women who’ve been added are so violent and weird. Don’t know if they’ll catch on with viewers.


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