Definition: unswerving in allegiance
Causes: having experienced loyalty in the past and valuing it; having experience betrayal and wanting no part of it; love; a strict military or religious background where blind loyalty is expected and rewarded; a belief that the person, institution, or ideal espoused is more important than self
Characters in Literature: Sam Gamgee (Lord of the Rings), Lloyd Henreid (The Stand), Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
Positives: Most people value loyalty as a character trait. As such, a character who espouses this value will gain respect from the reader. Loyalty will lead people to do things they normally wouldn't do, and provides a means through which to advance your plot. The beauty of loyalty as a trait is that it can be paired with so many other qualities, giving you an endless array of choices for your loyal character (the wise or foolish Loyal, the proud or humble Loyal, the miserable or happy-go-lucky Loyal)
Negatives: Blind loyalty can lead a person to back someone even when they don't agree with them. When truth is on the line, this can damage a person's credibility. Loyals can take the idea so far that their loyalty overrides their ability to think for themselves. They take on the ideals and beliefs of the person they support, and lose their sense of self.
Common Portrayals: soldiers, yes-men in the business world, cult members, best friends, the mafia
Cliches to Avoid: comparing someone's loyalty to that of a dog, kissing the ring as a pledge of loyalty, criminals who choose prison or death rather than rather than rolling over on an accomplice
Twists on the Traditional Loyal:
- Instead of blind loyalty, show the conflict of a truly loyal person torn between supporting the one they love and adhering to another valued ideal (the truth, the law, another important relationship)
- Loyals tend to attract other loyals. Make life difficult for your character by pairing him with someone who does not value loyalty, or someone who is equally loyal to an opposing person or ideal.
- How about a loyal character who has another, equally strong character trait that makes it difficult for him to be loyal? (see below)
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Loyalist unique or more interesting: greedy, selfish, independent, doubtful