Definition: unswerving in allegiance
Characters in Literature: Sam Gamgee (Lord of the Rings), Lloyd Henreid (The Stand), Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
Common Portrayals: soldiers, yes-men in the business world, cult members, best friends, the mafia
Clichés 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 Character:
▪ 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)
▪ Loyal characters tend to attract other loyal characters. 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)
Build a worthy protagonist with a mix of unique strengths that will help him overcome obstacles and achieve meaningful goals.
This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded into book form. Together, the bestselling NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER FLAWS and POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES contain over 200 traits for you to choose from when creating memorable, compelling characters. Each entry contains possible causes for the trait, as well as positive and negative aspects, traits in supporting characters that may cause conflict, and associated behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions. For more information on this bestselling book and where it can be found, please visit our bookstore.
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Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Shannon O'Donnell says
*sigh* Sam is the PERFECT character to represent loyalty!! 🙂
Leslie Rose says
I love a story where the loyalty comes from the heart instead of pure duty. Sam’s speech to Frodo about how they will be remembered in tales always brings me to tears. It’s an anthem to loyalty.
Interesting post!! I really like this site, and hope you will write more, thanks for your information.
Jan Markley says
I value loyalty but sometimes I’m too loyal! Internal conflict? I think so!
Stina Lindenblatt says
You can’t be anymore loyal than Sam.
Love this list. I’m going to be using this character trait for my new project.
I agree with you about blindly loyal characters…it is always a nice twist when the loyal character (usually the best friend) has a personal conflict with his / her loyalty to the MC.
Another loyal character with extreme conflict because of it would be Tristan from Tristan and Isolde. The scene in the dungeon gets me every time!
Character Trait Entry: Loyal is now The Sunday Tweet! 😀
Traci Kenworth says
I so love your choice for this.
Samwise was a hero in his own right
and if it hadn’t been for his loyalty
well, the ring would never have been
thrown into the pit. Loyalty is a
worthwhile trait to have on board in
any story.Sometimes it lights the way
in the story.
Kelly Hashway says
Very true! Loyalty does make characters do things they normally wouldn’t and that makes for good reading.
CP Design says
Ah Sam, the epitome of loyal. How did you know I needed this post? The book I’m editing has an extremely loyal character in it and this will help me so much!
Bethany Elizabeth says
This is such a great post. Loyalty is one of my favorite traits, mainly because there are so many heart-wrenching events that can happen because of it.
Karen Lange says
Wonderful…as always! Thanks so much! 🙂
See now, you can’t keep doing this thing, with the great posts that make me write posts of my own expanding on already an excellent post.
Martha Ramirez says
Awesome, Becca! I’m brainstorming for my next project so it’s great to see all the character traits you guys come up with.
Jennifer Lane says
I never considered before how a military background would contribute to a character’s loyalty. I wrote about a former Navy lieutenant whose brother was a Mafia thug, and my character really struggled with his loyalty to his values vs. his brother. Great post!
Julie Musil says
What an excellent post. I appreciate loyalty in real AND fictional people.
Angela Ackerman says
Great twists with this one, Becca! I could see a ton of conflict arising with each of them. 🙂
Natalie Aguirre says
Great choice of Sam as the ultimate loyal character. Your suggestions on twists are really helpful. Thanks.