Definition: having a desire to achieve a particular goal
Characters in Literature: Dr. Frankenstein, Edmond Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo), Laura Ingalls **note: Does anyone else find the kidlit world short on ambitious characters? Why is it so hard to find ambitious teens and children in our books?
Common Portrayals: CEOs, activists working toward a goal that will improve some aspect of society, musicians/actors/artists, teens striving for popularity, students, stage moms, athletic coaches
Clichés to Avoid: the slave-driving boss with unrealistic demands and no concern for those in his employ, teen girls clawing their way up the popularity ladder, the high-strung student going to extreme measures to get into a certain college, the ambitious character who flings ethics aside to achieve his goal only to turn his back on success when he realizes what’s really important in life
Twists on the traditional ambitious character:
- Many main characters are ambitious, and their stories focus on the pressure they exert on themselves and others. But what about a ‘normal’ main character with an ambitious sister or teacher or grandmother? External pressure makes for a very different story.
- Instead of using the usual roles (CEO, rock star), put your ambitious character in a position that makes it harder to achieve success (blue-collar worker, homeless teen, mental patient).
- Think outside the stereotypical boxes. Female CEOs, male fashion designers, children and teens who change the world
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.