How to Write Effective Betrayal

Photo credit: kukkurovaca on Flickr
Betrayal has been a relatively common theme in writing basically from the very beginning. From the Trojan Horse in The Iliad, to Judas in The Bible, to Shakespeare’s et tu, Brute? and more, betrayal is no stranger to fiction.

Writing betrayal effectively, however, isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

I’ve found there are two major components to keep in mind when writing a betrayal:

  1. Set up. A key component to effective betrayal is a set up that makes sense without being obvious. This is a tricky balance to achieve—on one hand, you don’t want your readers to be able to guess that a character is going to turn out to be a traitor, but on the other hand, if it comes too out of the blue, your readers won’t believe it and will accuse you of cheating. And rightfully so.

    Sometimes this requires some reworking after the first draft has been written, which is totally okay. And many times it takes several rounds back and forth with CPs and betas to get the balance right, which is also okay. But do make sure you take the time to get this balance down. 

  2. Emotional involvement. If the traitor isn’t someone your protagonist cares about, then the betrayal isn’t really that powerful of a betrayal. The closer the traitor is to your protagonist, the more it hurts, which is something you definitely want to go for when writing betrayal. After all, if the betrayal doesn’t upset your protagonist, your readers aren’t really going to care, either. 

As I can’t really give examples of effective betrayals without totally spoiling major plot points, I won’t name any names, however a great way to learn about how to craft an effective betrayal (or, in some cases, how not to do it) is to read books with betrayals in them. So make sure you take some time to catch up on that TBR list.

So those are just a couple things to keep in mind when writing betrayals, but now I want to hear from you: what tips do you have for writing effective betrayals?

Twitter-sized bites:
Do you have a betrayal in your WIP? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips to help you get it right. (Click to tweet)  
Et tu, Brute? Writer @Ava_Jae shares two key components to writing an effective betrayal. (Click to tweet)

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