I am writing a book which is told in first person from the main characters point of view. There is a group mainly of four people which the story involves most heavily, and one of them is planned to betray the main character in a very selfish way which probably cannot be forgiven. Is this too rapid of a decline in the security of their little group if I am planning to write two consecutive books?

  • As-is, this question is too opinion-based; we can't give you a meaningful answer without reading the book, and even if we could, that would be unlikely to be helpful beyond your specific case. – Standback Aug 25 '16 at 7:50
  • That said, I understand your concern that you're throwing the group off-balance. "Is this too rapid a decline" isn't really something we can answer, but you might have a workable question here. What, exactly, is your difficulty? Do you not want the group to start feeling insecure? Are you looking for a way to maintain a sense of security and camaraderie? What is it you're anticipating in the next books that you think won't work because of the betrayal? – Standback Aug 25 '16 at 7:54

I think it can be argued that a character can betray your MC in the first paragraphs of your story, it all depends on why.

The fact is that betrayal is part of the fabric of life -- just as is love, trust, and hope. And that's ignoring that many antagonists start out as confidants of the protagonist. If you make it believable -- done for a reason that makes sense to the character themself, whether they agree is irrelevant -- then I say: have at.


I think it can be argued that a character can betray your MC in the first paragraphs of your story, it all depends on why.

Absolutely agree (+10). It is your story and it is up to you how to tell it. If you want to build to it, make the readers like your characters first (one book should give you enough time to do so), then go for a conflict. Or make it the inciting incident of your plot or sub-plot and start with it. The turf is yours.


I think that actually sounds really interesting actually. Sometimes, the question, "Can I do something with what I am writing?" isn't really the question. You can do whatever you want in writing in terms of plot.

I think what you are asking is not, what is possible with plot, but how do you pull it off in the narrative. In that case, I would look over some of the great stories that feature betrayal, and see how you can pull ideas from them. Here are some that I came up with:

  1. Euripides' Medea
  2. Harry Potter (Many examples throughout.)
  3. King Lear
  4. Macbeth
  5. The Gospels (Judas' betrayal being archetypal for much Western fiction.)

These are stories that stand on their own without sequels (save Harry Potter) that deal primarily with betrayal.

Harry Potter is an easy one to dissect because I can assume you have read it, and betrayal is a theme throughout the whole book series, culminating in the penultimate book.

In the first book, the idea that Snape is a traitor is laid out from almost the very beginning, the MC's obsess over it and it seems so sure, then in the climax of the book, Quirrel turns out to be the traitor. In subsequent novels in the series you have different examples and types that would be good to go over and examine. In the final book, you have a different kind of betrayal with Ron leaving. This is ultimately settled but it could be a good study about how to bring a lot of tension into your novel.

A lot of thoughts, but hopefully something in there triggered your brain. Besides the HP novels, the other things I listed are pretty accessible and consumable.

Hope this helps!


The answer is up to you. As the author, you may know the reasons and backstory, but the readers don't.

In effect, what you are describing (opening paragraph betrayal) becomes "The Hook" of your book. Some stories start on a dark and stormy night, others with a massive explosion, some with a series of unfortunate events, and a few start in a nice, comfortable, one might even say luxurious, hole.

I suggest you get feedback. Have a few people read your opening paragraphs, change the names if you must, and tell you if they would read a story that started off this way. Also, step back and think about this from a neutral perspective. Do you like a book that starts this way? Does it hook you?

A tragic beginning might start a book off with a bang, it might even become great. It is certainly... intriguing. Not all stories start and finish with a happy little elf, after all. I believe that book was in aisle two, just a few down the way over there.


You can have your main character killed in the first paragraph if you want. Dickens did that and wrote a masterpiece.

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