1. Rewrite The Ending

    Rewrite The Ending Member

    May 23, 2017
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    Ambitious characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Rewrite The Ending, Jun 14, 2017.


    I have been tbinking of something.. I have a character who is ambitious, and I love ambitious charscters, but the thing is that I don't think any of my characters will end up with no education or career prospects with zero ambition.

    Does that feel repetitive? Why should one character be ambitious in particular when most of my characters do have some drive to want to achieve something.

    An ambitious person won't give up after a setback, and always set new goals etc. to keep going, they feel strongly about what they want, right? Someone who is just determined and driven, who has goals is not neccesarily ambitious?

    What does ambition mean to you?
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Aug 8, 2015
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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Ambition is a drive to do something or obtain something with the drive
    and determination to succeed within the limitations of their abilities.

    The question is why are you writing characters with zero drive?
    Pretty much every story has a motivation that it works towards,
    and varies in size and scope. From something simple like winning
    the hand of a lover, or something complex and intense as freeing
    a country/planet/galaxy for example.

    So naturally they would follow their desire to follow through with
    their wants/needs. Not going to save the day or get the girl/guy,
    sitting on their ass playing World of Warcraft in mommies basement.

    Set them so motivation and give them strife along the way. Without risk
    or challenge there is no possibility of reward. The harder they struggle
    to meet these goals, the better the payoff when they do make it to them.
  3. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2016
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    Yes, that right there is "ambition"--the desire and determination to go out and achieve your own goals.
  4. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

    May 8, 2014
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    Washington, DC, USA
    Well ambition is a spectrum. There are very few people who have absolutely none, and very few people who max it out so far that it excludes everything else. You can certainly have everyone be driven by it to some degree and still have one who stands out for being more driven by it than the others.

    I have to deal with this one a lot in my own book - I live in Washington, DC which has a lot of type-A highly ambitious people, and one of the top things I say my novel is about is the "toxicity of ambition." Still, even though that means my entire cast is hyper-ambitious, there's still a lot of gradation and differences in motivation. The villain, for instance, can (and does) sell-out her best friend in the world for the sake of her own advancement - the main character wouldn't do that but she does have a tendency to let her focus on her job eat away at her relationships - that character's best friend, on the other hand, will work herself to the bone but is also so driven by personal loyalty that she will take massive risks to stick up for her friends - another one became so concerned with maintaining career progress that she descended into alcoholism to cope with the problematic decisions she made to stay ahead - and yet another blatantly sells out her values on national TV, primarily because she's motivated by fear of having to go back to her old life in her hometown and will do ANYTHING to maintain her career. Those people are all hyper-ambitious but they aren't all the same, and they behave differently.

    Also, what does ambition MEAN? There are different reasons people get to that place. People are going to behave differently depending on what they actually WANT. Power? Money? Influence? Validation? Desire To Change the World? Clawing out of bad situation? All can lead to ambitious behavior but that root desire is going to cause things to manifest differently.

    The other thing I've noticed is that that not all highly-ambitious people are the sort of driven, bulletproof people we think they are. A lot of them can be extremely sensitive to criticism because they have so much invested in getting to the next step. They can have emotional roller-coasters because they set super-high expectations for themselves and then get devastated when they don't meet them (even when the rest of the world thinks they're doing great.) Work-vs.-relationship tension can be a big thing - especially when you have someone who's naturally motivated to work long hours and focus hard on work. Then you have people that focus so hard on their job and burn so much emotional energy that they have absolutely no emotional strength left when they get home. So, people who are motivated by ambition can be really wonderful people, but definitely remember that there's a shadow side there. Even do-gooders - people who want to change the world or work for human rights or whatever - can burn themselves out (hard) and end up neglecting things that really matter.
  5. Ulquiorra9000

    Ulquiorra9000 Member

    May 5, 2017
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    Columbia, MO
    To me, in fiction, an ambitious character will go to further lengths for a goal than anyone else would, and will make more sacrifices, and has more of an emotional investment. It can go further into obsession, madness, or, subjectively, evil. Ambition isn't inherently evil, but can easily lead to that. Plus, ambitious people often have, or develop, the discipline, skills, and knowledge needed to reach that goal. I've read a few short articles on what makes rich or successful people what they are, and the core traits seem to be: 1) concrete and realistic goals, 2) good time management, 3) constant self-improvement, and 4) putting up with a lot of failure in order to reach success.
  6. Partridge

    Partridge Senior Member

    May 30, 2017
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    Cambridgeshire, UK
    Ambition (for me) is the drive to reach a place in your life that's better than the place you are in now.
    Notice I used the word drive not desire.

    It's about not letting your current environment dictate where you will end up in life.

    And it's not just your focus on one goal, it's the outlook you carry around with you throughout everyday life.
    jannert and rktho like this.
  7. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Yes, I think that's it, in a nutshell. Desiring something and hoping you get it is not ambition. That's wishful thinking. Someday my prince will come, tra la la.

    Ambition doesn't have to be harsh or cruel or dispassionate or selfish. What it must be is active.

    The ambitious person doesn't wait around for their dreams to come true. The ambitious person continually works to bring about their desired goal. It can be something as simple as studying hard, so they pass tests that will allow them to move up a couple of grades. Or it can be working hard at a job, and saying yes to every chance of promotion, and making sure they deserve it and can learn from it. Or practicing as hard as they can to become an athlete or an artist, or whatever they want to become that takes practice. Or actually writing a novel, rather than dreaming about becoming an author.

    There is nothing inherently wrong about 'climbing a ladder.' You often need to do this, to get to the top of something. But where it goes wrong is if you shove other people off the ladder or step on their fingers to get there first. If your ambition is to achieve the highest rung WITHOUT hurting other people, that's also an ambition. It's also a good idea to become as well-rounded a person as you can be. You never know what's around the corner, do you?
    Partridge likes this.
  8. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

    Dec 31, 2015
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    I don't think ambitious is the right word for what you are talking about. To me an ambitious person is one with a specific goal that they are driven to achieve, even if that means sacrificing in other areas of their lives, and anything short of achieving that isn't good enough. But I don't think that's quite what you are referring to, at least not in your third lines. You don't need to be ambitious to pick yourself up after a set back. Notably, I don't think that setting new goals is really evidence of being ambitious. I think setting new goals is just what people do. Ambitious people in fact won't set new goals until they are very certain they've achieved their ambition. By contrast, less ambitious people might frequently set new goals; start at something, see that it doesn't fit for them then try something else.

    In truth, the way you are writing makes it sounds like what you really mean is that you characters have a strong sense of agency. They are people who do things towards their goals, who don't lay back and let it roll over them. When they are knocked back they are able to take charge of themselves and try again. But this describes almost every good character. Part of compelling fiction is having these traits. A character who simply gives up when the going gets tough isn't one that will hold the audience. A character who can't whether set backs is one that most people will dislike.

    So; no I don't think you are re-treading the same thing over and over, at least not in this sense. What will matter is how you present the set-backs, exactly how they react, if they are struggling against things or if they are grabbing the world by the balls, why they are after a certain thing specifically and if that changes. I can imagine how, especially if you write stories in a similar vein in terms of content, that you might feel you are treading the same paths. It's easy to feel that as the author. After all, we know our stories very well and we relate to them in a very specific way. We see them for a much much longer time frame than our audience ever will. We then pick up another project and start writing again, jumping into another character. But it's unlikely that this comes across as repetitive to other people. In many cases people like that there are these traits that they see themselves with as long as the rest of the story has something unique.

    Aside from anything else; unless you are published and well read, don't worry at all about repeating yourself. Worry about writing good books that stand up by themselves. For most of us, getting published means iterating and writing broadly similar stories and getting very good at that.

    Being not like yourself can wait until people care about you.

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