The Traitor

The name says it all.

Traitors are individuals who were previously thought to be on one side of a conflict, but are later revealed to be on the opposite side. Since they are usually trusted to make key decisions for good or ill, they end up playing key roles in the story. Since knowledge is power, an ally who knows as much about their enemies as they about themselves is…well, influential.

Traitors (as the name suggests, again) are usually bad. This is for the reason that traitors are generally looked on with disgust, and a “traitor” who betrays the bad guys to join the right side is looked on like a hero. Sure, they were a “traitor” in a way, but it doesn’t look that way to the reader.

Traitors are usually the bad guys who are cloaked as good guys. It can go either way, but traitors are supposed to look bad, because they are betraying what they once stood for. They look like scoundrels, mercenaries, even cowards. All of these perceptions floating around make excellent ways of looking at this individual.

Of course, there are multiple reasons for betrayal: revenge, survival, protection of one’s family, and so on. A well-crafted traitor isn’t just a sell-out or a hired blade. He or she has personal or other reasons for doing what they’re doing. In this way, creating a good traitorous individual isn’t the easiest thing ever.

There are two ways to make traitors. The first is to introduce a character into the story with intent to have him (or her) turn at a given time. The key with handling traitors is to reveal just enough to keep the reader guessing as to the traitor’s true allegiance. Make use of foreshadowing here.

But not just foreshadowing. The key to crafting a good traitor is to reveal patches of the truth and then cover them up with convincing lies. That way, the reader can say both “something’s not right here” and “look how good *so-and-so* is! He just saved Bromley!” The reader certainly can’t rest easy, but the hint quickly fades into the background.

You see, the deal is to introduce many different aspects of the traitor at once. Introduce the truth, then cover it up with a lie. Cover that up with a truth, and then a lie, and so forth. The reader won’t know where to put their foot down, because no ground is certain. Keep it that way.

Continue this right up until the traitor is revealed. This is where you introduce the truth, only reveal to the reader that this is indeed the truth and that previous concept was the lie. This is where the reader gets the satisfaction of “ah, but I knew it, I just knew that xyz was a traitor”.

That’s the bare bones of the traitor, but there are many other things you can do with them. Here’s one: add conflicting alliances. Maybe this excellent-tracker-guy rough-type does work for the kingdom, only he’s working for the dark lord. During his stay, however, he actually falls in love with a girl in the Tracking Force as well, and when the times comes to spring his trap, he has other thoughts.

This is where you can turn potential traitors into true good guys. This works especially well when the traitor’s alias was a likable comic-relief type or saved the heron/heroine from dastardly doom. Know that if you add conflicting alliances, you could always counter the “villain” in this character and make them a “hero”.

That’s always an option. There are also many other fun things you can do with the traitor, and this is only one of them. Just remember this key tip: never reveal too much too fast. Always wait till the best moment to spring the trap, or your traitor will deal worse damage to your plot than it will to the people whom he’s betraying.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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