Definition: Having no pity; merciless; without compassion
Characters in Literature: Rumpelstiltskin (Brothers Grimm); Michael Corleone (The Godfather); Uncles Balder & Grim (Troll Fell)
Cliches to Avoid: The Hitler-esque military leader; the vampire killer bent on eradicating a species; the ruthless & beautiful female assassin; the guillotine-happy ruler or king; the stereotypical cardboard ‘power at all costs’ villain
Twists on the Traditional Ruthless:
- Ruthless individuals are almost always cunning and intelligent. If a character with this trait did not have smarts to fall back on, how would they compensate?
- Because ruthlessness and success go hand-in-hand, a archetype triangle is often created: rich, powerful & influential. Cast that cliche aside! Give us a ruthless grandmother, a cunning soccer mom or a shrewd bus driver.
- Ruthless is most frequently presented as a negative. Challenge yourself to create a character who uses this trait for the greater good.
This sample, along with the rest of the character trait entries, has been expanded and streamlined into book form! Together, THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER FLAWS and THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER ATTRIBUTES contain over 200 character traits that can be referenced for your character creation efforts. 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. Print, digital, and PDF versions are available for purchase from a variety of distributors.
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.