The 5 Betrayals in Bestsellers: External Betrayal

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External Betrayal is any betrayal outside of the character: friends, family, lovers, even the broader setting in the form of sunken ships, storms and shifting, unstable landscape. 

External betrayal draws readers in because it is so often personal, a deeply emotional abandonment by those with whom we (and our characters) are most vulnerable. 

The two ingredients necessary for this form of betrayal: 

1. Establish the close relationship, especially the emotional closeness and trust. 

2. Provide a powerful and realistic motivation for the betrayer. 

Keeping these two essentials in mind, here are a few ways to further enhance the visceral impact of External Betrayal : 

• The closer the friendship, the more scarring the betrayal 

• Consider the timing of the betrayal. Cull your story for the time when your protagonist most needs the betrayer, and spring the betrayal at that exact moment. 

• Some bestsellers immediately reveal the identity of the betrayer, others prolong the suspense. Consider how both options might affect your story. 

 

Example of External Betrayal 

Olympus Has Fallen provides a great example of external betrayal. A close friend and secret service agent not only betrays the main character (nearly killing him at a pivotal point near the end of the story), but also betrays the entire country. This is personal, professional and prolific betrayal. 

 

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Christopher Kokoski is a speaker, trainer and author of Wicker Hollow and the Past Lives novel series.

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