Internal betrayal is a common thread in many bestsellers and a versatile technique for tunneling down to the guttural level of a story. First, a quick definition: Internal betrayal is when a character’s mind, emotions or personality flaws hinder him or her from accomplishing the story goals. There are many ways to include internal betrayal in stories. Here are a few examples of how to apply this tactic from bestselling novels:
Loss of memory: the mega popular Jason Bourne series relies heavily on this form of betrayal. The main character, Jason Bourne, searches for the truth hidden in the lost memories of his past.
Magic/illusion: Sometimes the character’s perceptions, beliefs or other personality traits open mental blind spots for other characters (including the antagonist) to exploit.
Psychological/emotional pain: Many bestsellers include characters that struggle with past decisions, regrets or trauma. My novel series, Past Lives, follows the main character who discovers under hynosis that he is a reincarnated serial killer. The series tracts his journey both into his past and into his future.
As you discover new ways to introduce internal betrayal into your work, you’ll notice the broad flexibility of this literary component to draw readers deeper into the world of your stories.
What ways do you use internal betrayal and your stories?