Loyalty among a story’s characters is, I am convinced, the key to a story which readers cannot forget–and one key to earning loyal fans. Why was Star Wars such a success? The series Stargate SG-1? (I know these aren’t books, but stick with me.) Why do they have a cult following? Sure, there are lots of things that make them great. But just look at the dynamic between the characters. These characters may not always see eye-to-eye, but when it comes down to what really matters, these friends can always count on each other. These are loyal friendships. They are priceless. Don’t you wish you had friends like that?
And that’s just it–such unfailing loyalty is rare in real life. We’ve all been there, where we thought a person was a loyal friend, but that person ended up stabbing us in the back to save their own interests. Not only have we all been there, but we’ve all been there multiple times. True loyalty is rare. That’s why it’s so special. In real life and in stories alike. A story’s success depends on many things, true. A writer’s ability to craft a suspenseful plot, a high-concept idea, a vivid and evocative setting; these can all contribute to a book’s (or movie’s) success. But characters are what keep those fans coming back for more. Along with the relationships which those characters forge.
When a reader picks up a novel, he’s usually looking for an escape. We read for entertainment, yes–and we are entertained by an experience which we ourselves might dream about for ourselves. An experience which either brings back fond memories or provides us something which is scarce in our own lives. And a loyal group of friends is pretty rare. Loyal individuals are a little easier to find, but a team of friends who can count on each other through thick and thin is something we all crave. And so, loyal characters = loyal fans. Because we like to read about people we’d love to be friends with.