The Art of the Betrayal in Writing

Yoshi from Super Mario Bros

Yoshi from Super Mario Bros

Another topic that Misha Burnett suggested was writing about the ‘Betrayal’ scenes that happen a lot.  This is a tough subject because it has been done very often.  There are many opinions on this, so I’m not spouting gospel here.  In fact, I think not every reader takes a betrayal scene the same way.  So, instead of writing the how, I’m going to give my opinion on the reader-based factors that influence the impact of a betrayal scene.

  1. Foreshadowing–  I’m not breaking my rule right away.  Foreshadowing helps create the foundation for a betrayal and I think it’s best that it be subtle.  Other people would rather it be blatant or none existent.  It comes down to if the reader caught the foreshadowing or not.  If they didn’t pick up on it then the betrayal might come out of no where to pleasantly surprise or shockingly disgust the reader.
  2. Personal Ethics–  Let’s face the truth here.  People don’t share the same set of ethics or level of morality.  I’m not talking extremes, but those middle regions.  One reader might see the betrayal as entirely justified because they would do the same thing.  For example, Boromir taking the One Ring because he has succumbed to its power.  Other people might condemn him without forgiveness because they would never do such a thing.  This stems from a reader putting their own beliefs and morals on a story, which is unavoidable.  We all do it.
  3. Loving the Betrayer–  This seems to happen every now and again.  The character who betrays the others is charming and lovable.  The readers fall in love with the character and get a strange reaction to their actions.  Some hold out hope that it’s a ploy or that the character will come back to the heroes.  Others get furious with the book and reader as if you just kidnapped their best friend or pet.  A betrayal will change the dynamic of a reader/character relationship, so you’re going to get some hate mail if you created a solid bond there.  Personally, I say revel in your literary success.
  4. Hating the Betrayed–  Much like the previous point, this one involves the reader hating the victims.  Maybe the betrayed characters are pompous, boring, or something that prevents a solid bond with the reader.  If this is the case, you might find people happy about the event.  Basically, they’ll say the victims deserved the betrayal and they have no sympathy for them.
  5. Saw It Coming–  Some readers are more perceptive than others.  They might see the betrayal coming from a mile away.  Though, there are those who expected betrayal from every character if only to claim that they weren’t surprised.  There’s nothing you can do about this.  It’s rare that you can surprise every reader because betrayals and other shocking scenes have been written for centuries.  Accept that there will be some who figure it out and don’t stress about it.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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8 Responses to The Art of the Betrayal in Writing

  1. Nina Kaytel says:

    Since the books I had (pre-kindle) to were commercial fiction, crime thrillers, mysteries and ack Christian Romance, it is especially hard for me to be surprised by a book or show — this I have to look at all the other things in a book, foreshadowing, character development and what-not to decide if the betrayal was good or not. I friggin love betrayals and the downfall storyline in book though they rarely surprise me.


  2. Pingback: Bubblegum (You Were Never There For Me) | Stories in 5 Minutes

  3. fantastic, thanks for sharing


  4. Pingback: Loyalty Broken Without Warning or Reason | Legends of Windemere

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