Loyalty Broken Without Warning or Reason

Lando Calrissian from Star Wars

Lando Calrissian from Star Wars

One of the most common twists is the ‘Betrayal’ and I wrote about this once before.  This is where a lot of depth and growth can come from.  A traitor can ruin plans and destroy group cohesion in one simple act.  They can also become a catalyst to bring characters closer together and switch to a new main plot.  It’s definitely a tried and true twist with a lot of oomph.  Yet it can also go horribly wrong.

Take Lando Calrissian who is the first ‘traitor’ that I remember running into during my days of books, movies, and TV.  He was charming, smart, and quickly established that he was a businessman.  There was also a slight edge to his initial meeting with Han and the others that I noticed on later viewings.  So there was a feeling that he had something hidden, so the turn was a stunner to me.  So was the second turn.  Yet, Lando never appeared to be acting out of character.  He did what he had to do for his city and then he turned again when the deal was changed.  This might not be a perfect example because I’m still a little lost on why he was trusted so quickly after that, but that’s more on the other characters’ heads.  Maybe Lando was just that smooth.

You might note what the key point is here: A traitor needs to have a reason.  Either they were faking loyalty the whole time, they have a loved one at stake, or any number of reasons they do what they do.  Most readers won’t accept that a character goes villain simply because he felt like it.  Change of morals after a trauma or something to create the alteration of character.

Foreshadowing is a key component to a betrayal because it prevents it from coming off as a last minute decision.  Even if that is how it originated, you can come back to put clues that it will occur.  If you don’t want to hint at a betrayal then you can note a reason the character might side with the villains.  A character doesn’t even have to go with the villains if it suits their nature and circumstances.  For example, a beloved sister ends up getting killed in the crossfire of a battle.  The brother is one of the heroes and he leaves them at a critical moment while declaring he will destroy both sides.  This creates a third faction and can make things more interesting.

As with the previous posts, it all comes down to staying within the character’s personality and moral code.  Would they turn on their friends if they’re beliefs are put into question or will they change their ethical path?  That’s another option.  Betrayal of one’s self would fall under this and can lead to amazing character growth.  As usual, there should be some note that it’s possible like something he or she would place above their own morals.  Some readers might not accept it because everyone has a different priority list, but you have to stay true to the character.

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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36 Responses to Loyalty Broken Without Warning or Reason

  1. Olivia Stocum says:

    Lando is my favorite scoundrel.It is strange how he was trusted again with such ease… Maybe they were just so desperate for good flyboys!

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    • I never wondered about that until I was older. I think him turning on the Empire and helping them escape by getting all of Bespin in on the fight was a big factor. He does do a few things to redeem himself. Although, I kind of remember him being Chewbacca and Leia’s bitch for a scene or two. Mostly when they wanted to go back for Luke.

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      • Olivia Stocum says:

        Yes, they definitely needed the help. I guess Chewy could have flown the Falcon by himself if he had to… But Leia was pretty messed up emotionally, and Luke, well he WAS missing a hand…

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      • They never really touched on Chewy flying the Falcon after the first movie. Maybe they should have had R2-D2 pilot the Falcon. The beeping little bastard was doing everything else in all 6 movies. 😀

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      • Olivia Stocum says:

        Yes he was. lol.

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      • I think the other factor at play here is that, once they calmed down and thought it through, they realized that Lando was super stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he hadn’t agreed to work with Vader, Vader would have killed him. The Falcon still would have landed, and Han/Leia/Chewie/droids still would have been taken into custody and tortured. Lando knew this, and tried to mitigate the damage as much as possible in what little way he could.

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      • Good point. He also said that he negotiated for Chewie and Leia to be left with him, so that was rather protective. Did they ever hint that he planned on rescuing Han later even if the Empire didn’t betray him?

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      • Umm … I don’t know about that. Wasn’t the original plan Lando made with Vader that Han, Leia, and Chewie would stay on Cloud City, and Vader would take Luke with him? I think Han only got involved when Vader altered the deal so Boba Fett could take him to Jabba. At that point Lando protested, hence the “pray I don’t alter it any further” line. Presumably once that happened, Lando started thinking about rescuing Han, but he wouldn’t have had any reason to do so before because before the deal alteration, Han was safe on Cloud City.

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      • It’s been a long time since I saw the movie. I was never sure if Luke was the real target, but that would make sense. They don’t show Star Wars on TV that often, do they? Not the originals anyway.

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      • Nah — and it’s really hard to find the originals now. I don’t think you can buy them anymore, except maybe on like eBay.

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      • That’s strange. They pull a Disney with their vault?

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      • I think they literally just stopped producing the original. You know, because now there’s the “extended” version. Which is just stupid. They should make both available. I mean, like I said, you can find the original versions, it’s just not very easy.

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      • I don’t mind the extended version too much. It’s those prequels that make me worry for future generations.

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      • Well, the new sequels are giving future generations the chance to write the wrongs of the prequels. Fingers crossed that they’re halfway decent!!!

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      • I’ll cross my fingers, but from the safety of a bunker. It can go either way right now. Then again, I never got into the extended universe that much. Maybe I’ll have ignorance and bliss on my side.

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  2. melissajanda says:

    Well said. Without foreshadowing and motivation, it’s mentally jarring to the reader and doesn’t ring true.

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    • I’ve been wondering if it’s possible without foreshadowing. I keep thinking to a few things I’ve read/watched where a betrayal happens out of nowhere, but a good reason is given after the fact. Do you think that can still work? I can’t say the movie that I’m thinking of due to spoilers.

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      • melissajanda says:

        I think the reason has to be really strong. An example of this working without foreshadowing doesn’t come to mind, but I can immediately think of two where it didn’t work for me. The first one (brought up in a discussion with another blogger) is from Frozen and the second is from the Divergent trilogy. Maybe dropping hints so subtle that they’re only perceptible in hindsight would help? That way the reader’s reaction is “Wow. Why didn’t I pick up on that?”

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      • *SPOILER WARNING!*

        Frozen was what I was thinking. Personally, I think it worked because his reasoning was sound. I don’t see how how could have been affective if he showed even a hint of being what he really was. I do think there were a few clues in hindsight because you see many of his actions in a different light. That’s why I wonder about a betrayal without foreshadowing, but with a sound reason and the affect of making a second viewing feel very different. I was actually a little annoyed with Frozen when I thought the main bad guy was the obvious jerk.

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  3. elainecanham says:

    It’s odd though, isn’t it that Iago, possibly the most treacherous ‘best friend’ of them all, doesn’t really have a reason to bring Othello down. He’s just a nasty piece of work. Maybe, as with Lando, it can be a good idea to let the audience use their imaginations, so long as you’re not stretching them too far.

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    • Wow. I forgot about Iago. I always thought he hated Othello because of jealousy and hating the ‘outsider’. It’s been a long time, but I got the feeling that he was never a friend and always wanted to make Othello fall in the hopes of taking his place.

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      • elainecanham says:

        No, he’s too old and not high ranking enough to take Othello’s place. There’s only a tiny bit where it says he was passed over for promotion, but he still has plenty of power because he’s O’s right hand man, so that shouldn’t count (or wouldn’t with a normal bloke). Just shows what a genius Shakespeare was.

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      • Guess Shakespeare he wrote it so long ago. Do something like that today and you’ll get reamed on the Internet. 😉 People love their villains to have reasons.

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      • elainecanham says:

        I dunno, I think they just like them to be villains. Look at Iron Man’s uncle. What was his reason?

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      • Obadiah Stane was power and business. He wanted to have Tony killed, so he would control the entire company. At the time, he didn’t think there was anything else he could get from Tony. Then the Iron Man armor was made, but the company was being taken away from weapons manufacturing. That would have revealed or ended Stane’s side business, so he had to stop it. Pure greed for wealth and power on that one.

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      • elainecanham says:

        Oh all right you can have that one:)

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      • Sorry. Though, you win with Iago. Truly an evil little jerk.

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  4. Star Wars 5 and 6 really played with our emotions…

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  5. tyroper says:

    Yeah, the writers handled the whole Lando thing wonderfully. From the “You got a lot of guts coming here, after what you pulled.” to the choking scene. Awesome stuff.

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  6. So have you been watching “Agents of Shield,” and what do you think of the switch-arounds a couple of episodes ago? It seemed that Victoria was the traitor because she was out to get Coulson, and Ward was distraught to find out his former SO was the traitor… until he turned on Victoria. It seems like he’s really a traitor… yet he throws out lines like “now you think you know me” that raise questions if he’s just in very deep cover. Should be interesting.

    On the other hand, regarding Victoria, the screenwriters are also doing one of the things that irritate me most. Everyone is “acting appropriately stupid” right now. Splitting the team up — really, Phil? Nobody asking obviously important questions, like where is Victoria, because if they did the characters would readily deduce that Ward’s been a double agent. It’s just not good writing when your plot depends on characters “acting appropriately stupid.”

    It comes back to your original point — Logic, people! LOCIG!!

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    • Honestly, I’ve never seen the show. Though I wonder about when characters in Earth-based stories act stupid. Like when they split up in a horror movie. Maybe they’re alternate dimensions where such genres don’t exist, so they don’t know any better.

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  7. Um,,, I meant LOGIC, PEOPLE!!

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  8. Kirsten says:

    Well said! The interesting thing is that all these foreshadowing concepts can be seen in real life as well. There are certain friends of mine that I know their character so well that even if all the evidence in a trial pointed to them, I would know it was a lie. Unfortunately, not everyone knows us that well. I’ve had people I thought were close friends of mine believe the first lie that came out of someone’s mouth. Then I also have a best friend who can tell me what I’m going to do before I do it. It is all about allowing ourselves to truly know someone and let them know us. Your stories do an exceptional job at this!

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    • Thanks. All about knowing someone’s tell, I guess. I have quite a few friends who can do that with me. Lost all the ones that would believe anything said about me though. Probably a good thing.

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