Definition: having a desire to achieve a particular goal
Causes: confidence, passion, pride, a desire to achieve something one didn't have as a child, fear of failure, a need to prove one's self to others, ambitious parents, competition with a peer or sibling
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?
Positives: Ambitious people are hard-working and determined. They don't give up easily. They often are visionaries who can see amazing futures while others only see roadblocks. Ambition requires great focus and single-mindedness that enables most people with this trait to succeed at their goals.
Negatives: Those with ambition run the risk of putting their goals above everything else, including the people or priorities in life that should come first. They are so focused on their goals that they see anything short of success as failure. Many are perfectionists with unrealistic expectations for themselves or others. When ethics and 'success' clash, achieving the goal often wins out.
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
Cliches 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
sensitive, shy, apologetic, fearful, insecure, lazy, impulsive