by Allie Theiss
Who doesn’t love a good plot twist that gets your heart pounding and causes you to scream out a “WTF?!”
Viewers love to be surprised, and writers enjoy throwing surprises into the screenplay. A shocking plot twist deliberately doesn’t fit in with the apparent storyline. But there it is anyway, intended to change things up and pivot the plot.
However, have you really ever watched a plot twist that had you gasping for air? Did it literally send you into a panic attack?
My guess is probably not. But here are a few scenarios that have come close…and which we as writers can use to get to that place again. (And again and again…but that’s a different topic.) So, with that in mind, yours truly, Allie Theiss, presents:
5 Shocking Plot Twists That May Have Made – and Still May Make – Someone, Somewhere, Gasp For Air:
1) Off with his head!
Nothing gets a heart pounding faster than the sudden death of a beloved character.
Although Sean Bean tends to die more often than any other actor onscreen, it was still a surprise to viewers when Game of Thrones chopped off its lead character Ned Stark.
Grey’s Anatomy fans needed to breathe into a paper bag with Derek Sheppard’s death by an incompetent surgeon, and George O’Malley cruel death by bus.
2) Aren’t you supposed to be dead?
Who wouldn’t love a character to return from the dead? Especially one that, if he or she returned, would make the ratings skyrocket!
Those old enough to remember a life without cable TV can still remember the shock when Bobby Ewing was found alive, in the shower, by his wife, Pam. That character was supposed to be part of the Dallas pavement.
And now there’s Dan, due back from the dead on the reboot of Roseanne. Or so goes the rumor. Maybe Roseanne will hear the shower running?
A character rarely forgives the act of betrayal on TV. Most of the time, once betrayed, the character goes on a revenge binge for a season or through the series. There were shows called Revenge and Betrayal for a reason.
Those who made it through the roller coaster of a ride on 24′s first season got to see Teri Bauer being murdered by Nina. From that moment on, Jack relentlessly hunted Nina.
Carrie didn’t know if Brody’s likely defection was in her head or was it a reality? Homeland had everyone guessing for weeks until the betrayal reveals – yep, he was a terrorist.
4) You can’t pick your family.
Nothing like a family member to throw a wrench in the works, catapulting life in a different direction.
While only Monica and Ross were real brother & sister on Friends, all the characters considered their close-knit group as a family. When Joey went behind Ross’s back and fell in love with Rachel, Ross considered it a betrayal by his brother.
In the reboot of Dallas, it’s Ewing vs. Ewing again with John Ross pulling out all of the old tricks from Papa JR’s playbook to stab Christopher in the back, including stealing his love, Elena.
5) Crime pays – or does it?
Crime is not for the faint of heart. Whether the character pulls off the crime of the century or goes down in flames, committing a crime will change them, and not always for the better.
Put crime and family together like in The Sopranos, and you’re bound to see some white-knuckle plot twists. In their debut season, Tony, the show’s anti-hero, took his daughter on a college visit. While there he ran into a rat that spilled information on the family. Without giving it much of a second thought, Tony killed him.
Breaking Bad was a full (and awesome) series based on crime. Walter White, a chemistry teacher, diagnosed with Stage IIIA lung cancer turns to making meth to secure his family’s future before he dies. Each episode which Walter lives through is a plot twist in itself.
If any of the above twists had you gasping for air as you thought about how to put it in your screenplay, I consider my job done here.
Now take these twisty little nuggets of plot and use them to torture somebody else!