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When you write a story with a lot of political intrigues, you need to plan out how the complex web of alliances and betrayals will shape out. Sometimes, though, you happen to have a character who would be much better off siding with group B than group A, but still chooses group A.

What are the considerations you need to make that would justify certain characters siding with the risky faction? How do you make that choice believable 100% of the time? Is there some kind of technique, or do you have some useful insights on this?

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  • Is your question about the complex web, or about someone's choosing an allegiance that does not seem profitable?
    – Mary
    Mar 12, 2023 at 1:57
  • One idea: Make sure everyone has a reason to choose what they chose. It doesn't have to be a good reason, or a rational one, but they have to have some reason.
    – jtb
    Mar 12, 2023 at 3:45

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People choose their allegiances out of several different considerations. A character who would benefit most from siding with group B but still chooses A might do so because:

  • They have a personal feud with people in group B, so they join group A out of spite.
  • They have a very good relationship with people in group A, so they join out of sympathy.
  • Group B simply does not want them to join.
  • They have been a member of group A for a long time, so siding with B would require them to overcome cognitive dissonance and realize the error in their ways. This isn't easy for many people.
  • They might be personally better off with group B, but they don't agree with their ideological goals.
  • They might agree with the ideological goals of Group B, but not with the methods they use to achieve those goals.
  • Group B is unavailable for them, but they need allies now. So they join Group A instead.
  • They are simply misguided or uninformed about which group would actually benefit them the most.

But keep in mind that the main driver of what your characters do is their motivation. Whatever they do, there has to be a reason. That reason doesn't necessarily need to be rational. It can be emotional as well. But when a character does things for no reason at all, then your audience will perceive that as a plothole.

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