12 March 2013

Betrayal: The Best Kind of Conflict

Given it's close to the Ides of March, betrayal is a perfect topic for the month.

Julius Caeser, of course, isn't a romance, but it wrings incredible pathos out of Caeser's betrayal by Brutus and Cassius.

Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is a romance and it's also fueled by betrayal. Do the lovers stay true to each other and betray their families? Or stay with their families and not each other.

Their answer was intended to find a way around the conflicting loyalties. We all know how that went.

Betrayal is the best kind of story conflict because it's something we've all experienced and so hard to recover from. Every romantic break-up is a form of betrayal, as our partner is revealed as not the person we thought them to be.

That's why it hurts so much.

In Phoenix Legacy, I raised the stakes between my hero and heroine by putting a horrible betrayal in their background. Philip Drake's background was inspired by the film Running on Empty, where former 60s radicals are on the run with their two young children. Except in my story, unlike the movie, Philip's parents are very bad people.

And to get away from them and protect the only person he loves, Philip does a horrible thing and the one he loves views this a betrayal so terrible that she'd gladly spit on his grave.

Sometimes, I have problem with the conflict between a hero and heroine when writing stories. In Legacy, I had the opposite. I worried the conflict was impossible to overcome.

It takes some time and a little bit of bloodshed but they do work it out.

I'm currently working on the next book in the Phoenix Institute series and, perhaps because betrayal was on my mind, I set the plot up so that the hero and heroine would be faced with a choice, like Romeo and Juliet, between each other and their families. These  conflicting loyalties fuel to the story and, I hope, give it some poignancy.

There's another kind of betrayal that happens in stories too, one I haven't tackled yet. It's the temptation to betray oneself, to make a choice that the character knows isn't the right one but they want something so badly, they don't care. Macbeth makes this choice and regrets it. But the best book I've read about this kind of betrayal is Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold. In that book, Miles must make a choice between his double identities, as it seems like claiming one is betraying the other.

But, he concludes, "the only thing you can't betray for your heart's desire is your heart."

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero. She's the author of the Seneca series set in ancient North American, the Phoenix Institute superhero romance series, and a Senior Editor at GeekMom.com. 
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