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Betrayal

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, May 18, 2019
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This is a topic that Ozoneocean suggested to me and I have to say I'm quite intrigued to tackle it and start a conversation perhaps around the concept as a plot device but also as an issue of the relationship of the creators and the audiences.

Betrayal can be a very strong plot device, or it can be a cop out.

To have a character betray friends, family or a side in a fight, battle or war, there have to be clear motives established way before the actual betrayal takes place.

At the same time, the motives have to be analogous to the character's personality. The principle, in my opinion, is that anyone can betray, if given the right context and motivation, regardless of what that betrayal might to do them psychologically afterwards (if we assume that the character isn't actually committed to the deed).

The harder the person is to be tempted or convinced to betray, the higher the drama around that situation. And of course the fallout afterwards too is very dire, and bound to cause chain reactions.

Of course, just a high level of suspense and drama can be had with a person who doesn't at all mind betraying, and we watch them wreak havoc with their own machinations.

Whatever the case is, it has to be well established, rather than blindside the audience. Otherwise, it might feel that rather than the character betraying other characters, it is the authors betraying the audience.

A good part of that happens when the writing and buildup up to the key scene hasn't prepared the audience enough with the buildup to consider the action plausible. This is a big element for the current griping and huffing about the last episodes of Game of Thrones (which, I must admit is showing some real lack of preparations for their subversions). Had there been a proper progression of signs and hints that a character might make a U turn in their general alignments, then the audience would be frustrated at the character rather than the authors.

A great good example of a character doing not one but two betrayals and the audience not only rolling with it, but also being excited and buying into it: It's Zuko's arc in the animated series The Last Airbender. Zuko betrayed both sides he had been a part of, but every time he did it, there was genuine buildup and a direct connection to Zuko's motivations that remained powerful. He was also forgiven for the first betrayal, but he had to work a lot for that, too. It didn't just happen easily or outside the range of the characters' emotionality, background and intelligence.

The point I'm trying to make just going in the huge subject that is betrayal in art is that there's nothing you can't do with a character, provided you work for it a lot, and for a long time before you actually do it.

What do you think? Have you had any betrayals in your work?

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Genejoke at 10:56PM, May 18, 2019

AHH I have an epic betrayal coming in one of my comics. The most epic of epic betrayals. Or is it? Betrayal can be an interesting as it's not always betrayal as such rather than ones perception of another's actions.

bravo1102 at 8:44AM, May 18, 2019

Something inside tells you that you can't really understand betrayal until you've been betrayed. When your best friends do all they can to convince the person you want to be with to NOT be with you? When one day you speak to the person you live and the next she says she can never see you again? You didn't see what because it wasn't meant for your eyes. If you could read faces and catch the fleeting hints that most media allow you in hindsight it's all too clear. Other times people just slip away. One minute with you and the next without you. Catching that is good storytelling. Because for some of us it has been a part of our lives that we can't forget.

ShaRose49 at 8:20AM, May 18, 2019

Ugh, don’t remind me. Adult TV is chock full of betrayals that don’t make sense. Sunstrike and Bluemist is going to have some serious betrayal, which may be kind of expected based on the basic premise, lol. I hope I write it well, I certainly had time to plan it at least.

Banes at 7:08AM, May 18, 2019

Worst one that comes to mind was Indiana's partner in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I only saw it once, but it seemed he had a partner who was with him, then betrayed him, then was with him again, then betrayed him again, then finally was kind of on his side. A baffling fellow he was!

Banes at 7:06AM, May 18, 2019

Walking dead, for all its grittiness, has had a couple of pretty epic betrayals and then redemptions that I found satisfying. A nice way to play with the tension and uncertainty of those antiheroes we love (Hi Carol) and the gray characters we might hate (hi Eugene).

Banes at 7:03AM, May 18, 2019

Once in my comic I skipped a "final battle" scene, on purpose, to skip to the aftermath. I thought it was the right thing to do, but have never been totally sure it wasn't a cheat or skipping over of something that should have been there.

Banes at 7:02AM, May 18, 2019

I love it when a betrayal or deception comes to light and suddenly the whole story makes sense. As bravo said, that's the best. I don't think I've written a story like that. Seems very challenging.

bravo1102 at 5:56AM, May 18, 2019

You only see the hints in retrospect. That's the best depiction of betrayal, the one that strikes home. You only see the how and why after it happens, beforehand its all business as usual to the unsuspecting.

bravo1102 at 5:53AM, May 18, 2019

Tsk, tsk, don't call it "betrayal", that's such a mean word. Call it enlightened self interest. To use an historical example Benedict Arnold had a very clear character arc from hero to traitor and it's so easy to see him turn after his wounding at Saratoga, corruption as military governor of Philadelphia including dealings with loyalists and marriage to Peggy Shippen. The movie with Kelsey Grammar as Washington is excellent in that regard as it is all laid out quite plainly. But you know the ending already so the development is all that has to be seen. There'a a good 1960s spy movie called "Triple Cross" with Christopher Plummer as Eddie Chapmann an English safe cracker recruited to be a Nazi spy and then turned and so on. All kinds of betrayal and the basic story is true. But in his case it was self interest and being offered a good deal. Sometimes that's all it is. People can flip on a dime if they think it's in their best interest. That's betrayal.

usedbooks at 4:50AM, May 18, 2019

I'm not sure if Used Books contains anything that can be considered betrayal. Sometimes characters have to choose between opposing friends. Sometimes characters defy their "side" -- but to me, betrayal is about people, not sides/organizations. Going against company policy is not betrayal. Defying your superior or teammate is only a betrayal if he's also your friend.

usedbooks at 4:41AM, May 18, 2019

They have it in jrpg video games a lot. One member of the party (usually a roguish type) steps away frequently, maybe leaves for a while on "personal business," seems to overcompensate by being extremely jovial and likeable but also with that hint of egocentrism. Then at "bug reveal" time, you find out he's been spying for the enemy or something and you have a big battle with him (which is extra tough because he's the best fighter on the team, and you've been leveling him up). Afterwards, he either stays a bad guy OR you find out he's been coerced/blackmailed and is super repentant, so he rejoins the team (but other characters now don't trust him).

ozoneocean at 2:16AM, May 18, 2019

Then there's Brutus and Julius Caesar, Ephialtes with the Spartans, Benedict Arnold with the British and the American rebels... All seen as pivotal.

ozoneocean at 1:52AM, May 18, 2019

The most famous betrayer in history is of course Judas Iscariot. He's become the classic model of the betrayer. It's not a simple story though: He betrayed for money and also secret jealously... but betrayal was already forseen, pre-ordained, and he was completely forgiven. In fact you could say that in the Bible story that his betrayal was masterminded by god as a way of reaching the desired outcome- the crucifixion and resurrection. It's a tortured tale but an interesting one.

ozoneocean at 1:45AM, May 18, 2019

Betrayals can be super effective for getting things going in a story... They tend to be used to break a status quo: Everything is stable or at a deadlock or people are all safe and fine and the comes along and betrayal breaks the dam so disaster can ensure and the plot can race forward. That's who everything kicked off in Dune: The Artradies were all fine and safe in their new home on Arakis, till they were betrayed by their trusted family doctor, which meant the Harkonen could invade. The doctor betrayed them because his wife was a hostage of the Harkonen. But the doctor ALSO betrayed the Harkonen and tried to kill their leader. The Harkonene had also betrayed HIM because his wife was already dead... And lasly the Emperor also bretrayed the Artraidies by siding with the Harkonen. There's a lot of betrayel in Dune, it's a complex story XD


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