So this is a trope that unfortunately is very true in life as well. TV tropes calls it “We ARE Struggling Together” and I call it ‘the divided front’.
When the Big Bad is so bad that everyone agrees to set aside their differences to fight it off, then usually what you end up with is “The Resistance”. Only “The Resistance” is not a unified front of like-minded people who see eye to eye. Instead, it's a patchwork of different subgroups that may have some overlap in their ideologies and goals, or none at all except that the Big Bad needs to go.
The tentative alliance is a fragile thing, and tensions exist and perpetuate even as the various groups try to cooperate with each other against the Big Bad. Sometimes they might get so bad that the Big Bad gets second priority to “score settling” of various kinds.
Usually though, if the groups of the Divided Front have any modicum of self preservation, they will work together relatively well while the threat of the Big Bad is high and what is on the line is everyone's survival.
The real problems begin when the Big Bad has been successfully fought off enough that the threat it poses isn't as high or, even worse, if it looks like the Big Bad is on its way out. That's when different groups start thinking of their alliance within “The Resistance” as an opportunity to give their guys a leg up for what comes ‘after’: for example, eliminating a rival group so it is no nuisance in the post-Big Bad era is totally a thing.
On the other hand, people within the groups themselves aren't that homogeneous either. Having to fight and preserve one another is a bonding experience, even if it involves people from rival groups. When the time comes to confront their original frictions and clashing ideologies, people may not necessarily be as eager to backstab the people they just fought back to back with.
Or maybe they are- it depends on how much of a hardliner each individual is, as well as on the experience while the front was united against the Big Bad.
Infighting is a precarious situation for the divided front and it may give an opportunity for the Big Bad to regroup and retalliate to regain lost ground. Even worse, some groups (or all of them, even) may try to strike a deal with the Big Bad to end their rivals, in essence destroying the front and “The Resistance” from within.
The key when it comes to writing Divided Fronts, in my opinion, is not to fall in the trap of completely villifying or sanctifying one group vs. the other. It's unlikely that one group has all the upstanding folk and the other group all the lowlives. If nothing else, both groups agree that the Big Bad is big AND bad, and needs to go, and usually this implies that they have serious reasons for not joining up with the Big Bad. Unless that Big Bad is an invading genocidal alien against all of human race, opting not to join up with the Big Bad means they disagree on ideology.
And that is always common ground, even for infighting rival groups, as well as including a good chance that some values are shared across the board, even if they are extremely few.
Does that mean that no group can be shown to be in the right while the other in the wrong? Of course not! But being right or on the right side of history does NOT mean everyone is a saint or they don't employ questionable means to serve that ‘right side’. Same goes for being on the wrong side (yet still on the right side fighting the Big Bad).
The struggle of the divided front generally tends to be the B Plot in whatever is happening, but it's always a powerful way to add realism and suspence to a story. After all, it's harder for a divided front to win before it falls.
Do you have a divided front that is Struggling Together in your story?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 17, 2021
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