The Trick with Promises: Easy to Make and Hard to Keep

Yahoo Image Search

An interesting theme that appeared out of nowhere in War of Nytefall: Lost is the concept of promises and keeping them.  While I wrote the first draft, I began to notice how often characters declared that they were promised something.  Part of this stemmed from me not having a clear idea of what certain heroes and villains wanted.  Those came about as I progressed and it seemed to always come down to a favor/promise being aggressively called in.

Since these promises became so integral to the central plot, I can’t go into specifics.  There was a trick with these and that was having some of the characters who weren’t holding their side of the deals not be malicious.  It was more that they either forgot or didn’t realize they made the promise in the first place.  On the other side of the scenarios were those who refused to bend on what they wanted even if it was against the wishes of the person they made a deal with.  This turned everything into a chaotic mess, which fed the overall tone of the book.  I didn’t want things to be totally off the wall, but I required things to fall into a mess before it resolved.  Broken promises ended up being a great source of conflict and confusion.

Many questions came about because of this focus:

  1. Is there ever a good reason to break a promise?
  2. What about people who make promises just to make people happy?
  3. Do you keep to a promise if it turns dark?
  4. What if two people make two conflicting promises about their future?

I’d love to say I figured out some answers to these questions, but I came to realize that it differs from person to person.  Not only the characters, but the author.  In some situations, I see a promise as worth breaking because it could hurt people.  Others might see it as needing to be fulfilled since it isn’t a sure thing that it will result in damage.  Part of this stems from knowing the full extent of the promise too.  Some change throughout the story because one side wants to alter the parameters, which comes off as unfair and manipulative.  There’s one promise that simply falls apart because those involved have gradually gone in different directions.  It would be unfair to someone if they had to sacrifice to go through with the promise.

What do you think about promises between characters?  Do you think they should always be upheld?

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.
This entry was posted in War of Nytefall and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to The Trick with Promises: Easy to Make and Hard to Keep

  1. In my ideal world, people would either keep promises, or have an extremely good reason why they didn’t. However, this isn’t how things really work. Since people in real life make promises and don’t keep them, with or without good reason, forget they’ve made them, etc, it’s only natural things like that should happen in books. Although, if the author cares enough to mention the promise being made, I would hope the promise-making is important to the story in some way, whether it be for character development or because it’s important to the plot itself.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Adele Marie says:

    It depends on my characters. At the moment I’ve got one ex-villain who promised a lady he would find her on the other side. Now that’s all well and good, but the guy’s lost his memory and doesn’t even know his name, so he isn’t technically breaking a promise, but…she doesn’t know that. Argh……lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Characters can be role models, so, as Tori said, they need to either keep their promises, or have a good reason not to. 😎

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the promise is only as good as the storyline need supports it. In other words, if it is a better story to break the promise, break it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. L. Marie says:

    Some good comments were given already. As others have said, it really depends on the character and the nature of the promise. You can promise someone that he or she will make it to a destination safely, but circumstances may align that you’re unable to keep that promise.


  6. It’s funny; I’ve been trying lately to teach the wee one the importance of keeping one’s promises. Turns out kids don’t really care whether they keep them or not, so I guess there’s a question of maturity there as well.


  7. I think the author has to be in the driver’s seat here. Use the promise as a source of tension. Either it’s extremely difficult to keep, and provides tension to the MC, or it’s being unfulfilled places a burden upon the MC who is depending upon it.


  8. Bryan Fagan says:

    I think back at the people who broke promises when I was young and I think of the feeling I had when they did it. But it wasn’t the broken promise that I remember, it was their cold reaction of not caring. For me, that is how a villain is born.


  9. Interesting idea to have so much turn on social contracts (promises) instead of an external enemy!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s