Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Loyalty

Those of you who saw into my notebook of secrets knew I was going to blog about this this week. The problem is, I can't remember what I was going to say, exactly. I'm going to blame it on my severe case of Outline Brain.. (BTW, I thank all of you who blogged about this or offered advice. Since that post, I have written a COMPLETE OUTLINE and half of another. Too bad that's only halfway through what I need to accomplish.)

But I wanted to talk about loyalty. I'm a very loyal person by nature. I get fiercely attached to people and if someone says something about them look out!! I want to go all ninja and start punching.

And I'm wondering: Is this good or bad?

I think my fierceness in defending people has burned me in the past, but I'm not sure if I should care enough to change that part of myself.

And since this isn't like, The Elana Show, how does this relate to writing? Well, I've been developing a character recently that realizes that something she fears is unfounded. She should probably change her belief. My question is: Does she have to?

Can I remain fiercely loyal, even to a fault?

Can my character hold on to her fear, even though she knows it's irrational?

So confess...what do you know about yourself that you should probably change, but don't? Why don't you? Is it hurting anybody? Is it hurting yourself?

Yeah, randomness today. But what do you think??

47 comments:

Ted Cross said...

I believe in loyalty but also the belief that everyone can be wrong. I won't blindly defend even a best friend if they are in the wrong on something. I consider it my duty as a true friend to always aim for the truth.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Hmm, well, I'm pretty bad with people that are sick. It's a horrible thing. I grew up with a sick mother so I guess I just resent it now. But I try my best, to be sympathetic!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Your question about your character is a really difficult one, isn't it? Because characters in books don't always follow real-life rules - like in real life, sometimes I act totally irrationally, but characters need reasons to act like they do.
It kind of depends on the fear- will her fear frustrate the reader too much? And sometimes it depends on the viewpoint. Like... I would say that fierce loyalty can't be 'wrong' as long as the goal is to the benefit of the loved one, keeping in mind that sometimes pain and tough lessons are a necessary part of life.
So much philosophizing, I'm sounding like my grandfather. :)

Jen said...

This was an awesome question Elana and of course being the guru that I am, I've brought you answers!

I think if you are a to have a fault it's not bad for it to be fiercely loyal. Everyone has a fault and I'd rather mine be positive.

Of course your character can hold a fear, even though it's completely irrational. Human beings like ourselves have them all the time.

I'm terrified for spiders, the word alone makes me cringe, they are disgusting little eight-legged monsters, and it's completely irrational how I behave, then again isn't that the point? Most of our fears are completely irrational.

BTW - My latest MC Sadie just so happens to be a witch and she has something in common with me, she's deathly afraid of spiders. Completely irrational. Yet I love her!

Hope this helps :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Interesting question.

I am fiercely loyal too, and when someone disappoints me, acting in a way I didn't expect, I crush.

I'm fraught with insecurity, and I place those feelings on many of my protagonists. One doesn't have confidence in her abilities, while another is afraid people won't love her back if she lets them in. It's a perfect way to set up their faults for the plots to come.

lynnrush said...

Interesting post. I've been burned a few times because I trust the wrong people. I want to believe the best in everyone which can lead me to getting taken advantage of pretty easily.

Yeah, that hurts the heart a little, for sure!

Jonathon Arntson said...

Sometimes the irrational things about us are our best qualities. Even so, we typically change organically, not overnight. It's like shedding a habit, it'll just come to pass.

I have the habit of speaking before I filter myself. On my blog this tends to be amazing, but in chat...not so much. It's one of the things I think people love about me, but it also annoys them, ya know?

In the end though, are we choosing who we are or are we choosing to be who we are?

Candyland said...

Um I LOVELOVELOVE that about you. I want all my friends to be that way, even to a fault. Loyalty is a huge thing.

And me...I'm caring to a fault. Like it doesn't matter if the person spits in my face, I'll still care about them and wish them well.

Em-Musing said...

I figure my first 18 years, I was force-molded by my parents. Then for the rest of my life, I'm molding myself. I'm still a W.I.P. Change is good, so are character flaws.

HollyAnn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HollyAnn said...

I am exactly the same. It takes a while for me to warm up to people, but once you're my friend I will defend relentlessly! It has caused some undue stress and bridge burning...which I have learned now that I'm the ripe old age of 27. So this is where my comment comes into play: is your character a teen or young adult? If so, I would not change her. It took me literally this long to realize that I need to at least try to be more objective, even when it involves my friends. So if she's a teen, even if she realizes what she's doing, it will take her at least another 5 years to put her thoughts into action! Oh yeah, and don't change! I'd rather burn bridges in the aid of a friend than stand back and try to be Dr. Objective all the time. It may lead to mistakes, but when I'm on my death bed I'd rather look back and regret something stupid I did than regret the thing I never had the heart to do, like defend a friend.

salarsenッ said...

I suppose it all depends on what you'd like to accomplish with this character, where you want he/she to go. Take a look at it that way. In real life there is a choice. End of story. In fiction, you can try this and then that. See where it takes him/her and you.

Matthew Rush said...

I believe very strongly in loyalty, especially fierce loyalty. But loyalty doesn't mean you defend someone when they're in the wrong. In fact a true friend knows that its best to call someone out if you care about them and they're being foolish ... but that's not what you were asking.

I think loyalty to a fault like that can be a powerful bit of characterization if it's done right.

Kristi Faith said...

love this post. In short...I am way, way, way too nice. I know that seems arrogant. But I mean it in the sense that I forgive over and over and over again. Does it hurt anybody? Me. Do I change? Not really. I've tried in the past, but it hurts me more to be "mean" and I have a hard time being "firm"

Make sense?

Misha said...

I'm also fiercely loyal and most of my friends love me for it. It's rare enough that you can find someone loyal enough to trust.

As to whether the belief should be changed, it depends on the belief.

Sarah said...

Hi! So, yeah, your character should hold on to that fear for most of the book, I think. It's a flaw, it makes the character believable and it could potentially add conflict/tension.

You could always have your character overcome the fear in some way, but really, people hang on to behaviours that work for them. Yeah, there might be a degree of knowing your faults, fears, etc. But people don't change much unless they want to. A certain event might inspire the change (just as an event might trigger it), but ultimately it's down to the person.
I think you like that you are loyal to a fault--and I like that about you. :)

Tom M Franklin said...

loyalty is a good and noble trait, as is honesty towards those you are loyal to and who are loyal to you.


-- Tom

Emily White said...

Fear is too instinctive to just turn off. Even if your character did realize this fear is irrational, her body would have a hard time catching up with her rational mind. We condition ourselves for years to be afraid of something. Learning to not be afraid would take just as long.

And being loyal isn't a bad thing at all. What you do with that loyalty is what can lead to problems. Like others have said, if you stand up for someone who is wrong at the expense of others, then that would be bad. Of course, that's not real loyalty either. So I wouldn't worry about it. :D

selestiele said...

Loyalty to characters is something I don't have. Luckily, they don't let it affect our relationship and only sometimes thump me on the head for trying to make them do something that was against their personalities.

Regarding the irrational fear: that's the definition of an anxiety disorder. And we don't always know where those come from. Phobias start any number of ways, but they are maintained because we avoid the experiences that would prove to us time and time again that they're unfounded. And it takes a lot of those times to break a phobia. Ask any psychologist. So if you want to stay loyal to the character and keep it, you're well within your rights. And depending on how deep your POV is, your character may not know why or how it started. In that case, does it *need* to be explained?

Jaydee Morgan said...

People rarely change in real life - we're usually set in our ways and change is hard. That's what is great about fiction. Characters DO change - and that's what I end up loving about them.

Christine Fonseca said...

I definitely have traits that do NOT work in my favor all the time. There are good and bad aspects in all traits, really. Your characters should reflect this too.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Interesting what Matthew and Ted both say about the importance of being objective and fair, not just loyal.

Why is it interesting? Because they're both male, and 'loyalty to a fault' is often characteristic of women. The problem is that excessive loyalty without objectivity or justice can result in women taking sides and being really, really unfair. It can cause women to gang up on people and be really hurtful, all in the name of loyalty. Pack behavior and clannishness is all loyalty-based.

So it's not that I don't believe in loyalty: I do, and I'm very loyal to my friends. But part of that loyalty is encouraging my friend to be the best she can be, which means not taking sides against others just because they've done something my friend doesn't like.

Summer Ross said...

Aren't those things we don't change about ourselves part of what makes us who we are inside? I'm terribly afraid of spiders, I have no reason for it and it even gets to me in my nightmares, but changing it, that's a lot harder to do than just deciding...lol I think each individual or character, must face themselves at some point, and ultimately decide if they can change it.

Bish Denham said...

I too can be/have been/am fiercely loyal. (Story coming) In one case, my loyalty blinded me to the reality of my situation. The situation was that the friendship I believed for many long years to be mutual turned out not to be. When I finally accepted that this friendship was indeed a farce, the "scales" fell from my eyes and I was able to see in hind-sight all the red flags of warning.

It was a hard lesson to discover someone I trusted and dearly loved was a liar and user, someone who never reciprocated.

This experience did not jade me. I still give my loyality, but I am a more cautious/selective about to whom I give it. Be loyal Elana, it is a good thing. Just keep the third eye open.

As for your character, perhaps she can simply be less afraid, less ruled by her fear. Maybe she can simply breathe into it all and slowly begin to let go. Because surely a life-long fear does not go away over night.

E.J. Wesley said...

ELANA: "Randomness ..."

ME: "Did someone call my name?"

I TOTALLY feel you on this, Elana. I have a knack for listening and telling people what they need to hear, or simply understanding folks. That's part of what drew me to the counseling profession. To be able to do that, you also have to be able to understand what people DON'T want to hear. Unfortunately, in counseling, that's also sometimes necessary.

I don't think it's a bad trait at all, and I've used to it to build a lot of relationships. However, it can really bite me in the rear when I'm angry/frustrated with someone. When you know the most effective or hurtful thing in the world that could be said, in an argument, it can be hard to hold it in. Especially when you're REALLY pissed ...

My advice? Be YOU, and let others spend their time deciding if you're right, wrong, or otherwise. The people I love/care about the most, I accept as much for their faults as I do for their good qualities, and those things are often two sides of the same coin.

kathrynjankowski said...

Well, JK Rowling used Ron Weasley's fear of spiders rather well, I think, and I don't recall he ever outgrew it.

BTW, I just noticed the title of your book changed. And I so liked CONTROL ISSUES! The new one makes me think of exorcisms and demons, hardly what your story is about, right?

Pam Torres said...

I think most of us have irrational behavior of some kind or another. Sometimes it is a mystery to even ourselves what it is based on. For example, I recently watched something about people that fill their houses, constantly accumulating stuff. They know they don't need it but for some reason it fills an emotional need that they have.
When we come face to face with something about ourselves that we either don't like are wish we could change, it usually comes down to COST.
Is the cost of changing worth the result? I think your character would weigh that against what her ultimate goal is.
In your case, when looking at the bigger picture, has this loyalty cost you in terms of your overall well being or goals. If not, then the cost of not being loyal isn't worth it. Make sense?

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

Chances are if you think something about yourself needs change then it is detrimental otherwise why would you even think to change it in the first place.

An irrational fear causes anxiety and stress on the body. It probably inhibits or dictates behaviors as well. And the person is more than likely missing out on something.

storyqueen said...

Is your character holding on to her fear, or are you, as the writer, afraid to let it go?

(These are the kinds of questions I ask myself as I write.....)

Shelley

paulgreci said...

I think you can give a friend emotional support even if you disagree with what they are doing. This is a form of loyality, I think.

I also think characters, like people have mixed emotions and irrational fears.

I swim in a lake with dark water. I know there is nothing down there. This is Alaska, maybe a few frogs and some small fish. It's a small lake, but still when I'm in the middle I'll sometimes have that irrational fear of something from below reaching for my feet. I still swim there, the fear isn't paralyzing and I can laugh about it, but it still comes up.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I can be trusting to a fault, but I decided long ago that this was a trait I would keep because even though I might get hurt and disappointed from time to time,it would lead to more positive and diverse friendships in my life than I would have otherwise. Of course, this doesn't count for my love life where assuming I couldn't trust a guy until he proved otherwise always worked better:)

As for your character, I think this would be a great opportunity to have her consciously fight to let go of her fear, given the new info.

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, deep thoughts this morning!! As always, you guys give me so many things to think about. Fairness, title changes, and if I'm hanging onto the fear as an author (Thanks for that Shelley).

Lots to consider.

Lisa_Gibson said...

I think loyalty is a great quality. I have *ahem* several that probably need addressing though. One, I can be a procrastinator sometimes. I do tend to work well under pressure though, so that can be beneficial. Two, I tend to take whatever someone tells me at face value. In other words, I think people say what they really mean and I don't read anything into it. That can be a good and a bad thing. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Krispy said...

I think we all have irrational fears of some sort. I guess it just depends on what your character's fear is and is it important to your character's arc or the story. Plus, she may work to face her fear, but it doesn't mean it will be completely gone. After all, it is hard to change. I think the important thing is realizing there might be a problem and trying to overcome it if it is a problem.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Hmm, interesting. I'm a loyal person too, but sometimes I know loyalty can be misplaced. I like to stay on the positive side of it though.

Hmm, interesting. I think you can still hold on to a fear, even if it's irrational. Its like your brain is telling you one thing, but the fear controls you.

Jemi Fraser said...

I have ridiculous irrational fears and worries that keep me up far too long - then morph into nightmares. So, sure, she can hang onto that fear! :)

I tend to be fiercely loyal as well - and when I'm burned it is devastating. But it doesn't change my behaviour.

Maybe I'm just stubborn...

Lori W. said...

"Can my character hold on to her fear, even though she knows it's irrational?" That's going to be so interesting for you to explore in your story!

I myself, absolutely hold on to irrational fears, though I don't even realize I'm doing it until someone else points it out. Mostly, these are related to things my mom taught me to fear, things I learned to fear as a child and never got over (small spiders, strangers, etc.).

Nichole Giles said...

Like you, I have a problem with fierce loyalty. With this loyalty, though, comes a deep aversion and innate fear of betrayal. Needless to say, I've felt the sharp edge of both, many times over. All too often.

But here's the thing. I like this about myself. Not the betrayal thing, because obviously it leaves deep, red scars. But the loyalty thing? I think it's a really good quality.

BTW, I also like that about you. I can identify with it. And also, I trust it. I trust you. So there. *sticks out tongue*

People are like this. We have good faults and bad ones, and we keep them, just because we can. We hold onto things we know will hurt us, or could hurt us, or things we understand are illogical or irrational. It's human nature. Why wouldn't your characters act and feel the same way? Aren't they human too? (Or if not, they at least have human qualities.) Flaws like this make our stories more authentic, IMO.

And I have to be honest. That betrayal thing--much as I hate it in real life--makes for a really great plot twist or story.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have a fear of flying, but I wouldn't call it irrational.

Elana Johnson - Ninja Warrior!

Nathalie said...

It would take a lot more than a tiny comment space to list the things I'm not happy with about myself. From my brittle fingernails to my poor fashion sense, it's all things that I guess I could probably change if I wanted, but meh, why bother?

One of the joy's of writing for me is exploring all of my idiosyncrasies and using them to infuze quirky and unique character traits. I guess it helps me cope with my extreme imperfection! lol Knowing that someone else (even if that someone is a person I've created) has the same problems I do, is inspiring.

ChristaCarol said...

Great topic. I think sometimes the question isn't whether or not you should "probably change" something about yourself whether it's hurting anybody/thing or not, but whether you *can*. There are plenty of times I've tried to change certain things about myself, but in all reality, that is some tough shit to do when you've been doing it/have been that type of person/ have thought that way forever. So, if you do come to realize your MC realizes she needs to change and is going to try...it needs to be a huge challenge (all talking psychoanalytical, of course..I'm not talking about habits or speech patterns here) else I'm going to have a hard time believing it.

OK, I reread the post and realized I really didn't even answer the question hah. My giving nature...I want to change because it is a bad thing...I have a hard time syaing no to the point sometimes I end up flaking...not that I don't keep my word, but I give a maybe or I'd like to, never affirm it, yet never follow through because I've said it to so many other things I've gotten my plate full. Good intentions, but to a fault. I've tried to change, and it's happening very gradually. I'm starting to say no to things after consciously thinking "do I have the time for this?" "can I really offer the best of my ability to do this?" etc.

Claire Dawn said...

I can be fickle. Maybe I should try to be more committed, but I don't know that I want to change it, because it makes me who I am. And I don't do well with not being who I am.

Peggy said...

I have a fear of touching a spider printed on a page. I have troubles holding a book if I know there is a picture of a spider INSIDE it.

It's completely irrational. And I consider myself to be a very rational person. Could I get over the fear? Sure I could, if I tried hard enough. But would the payoff be worth the work to get over it? I'm thinking no. So I just hang out with my fear, and hope I don't scare anyone too badly when I scream like a real spider crawled on me when I notice I've picked up a book and realize that my fingers were right on a spider picture.

Robert Guthrie said...

Irrationality makes us human.

Melissa Sarno said...

I think self-awareness is a really important characteristic for any person to have, including fictional characters. If you realize that you are fiercely loyal, you are in a better position to know why you act the way you do, which, in my mind, means you are able to control your behavior a little better. In my opinion, a character who is blind to who they are is infuriating, so I think you have something important and real going on if you have a character who knows she's irrational...

lisanowak said...

I think it's very realistic that your character would have a hard time letting go of her fear. How many writer fears do you have that you've been told are totally unfounded? How hard a time do you have letting go of them? Sure, to you they might seem like they have a real basis, and everyone's just saying nice things to you, but I'm sure you character could feel that way about her fears, too.

Hannah Kincade said...

I've been burned a lot in the past so I keep most people at arms length and I know that keeps me from forming super lasting relatiobships. It takes me years to warm up to people sometimes. Althoug there are those wonderful people who you just click with right away and all is well.

I like randomness. Hippopotamus.

See Elana's recent blog posts

Recent Posts Widget