Having no pity; merciless; without compassion
Growing up in a loveless home; a society or environment where only hardened individuals survive (like prison or criminal/mafia hierarchy, repression during a dictatorship, etc) ; belief that emotion equals weakness; suffering a deep betrayal during an impressionable time which leads to a shutting down of feelings and lack of trust; adapting to survive a life altering event (famine; war; abuse; disease or plague; homelessness); a sociopath diagnosis
Characters in Literature:
Rumpelstiltskin (Brothers Grimm); Michael Corleone (The Godfather); Uncles Balder & Grim (Troll Fell)
Ruthless characters are exceptional leaders and are fiercely loyal to those they love. They protect those they are responsible to and see that their needs are cared for. They are not afraid of what must be done, and they can act decisively under pressure without being bogged down by emotions. Ruthless individuals stay focused on the big picture and are goal driven. Logical, shrewd and opportunistic, they execute decisions regardless of ethics or morals if they deem it is in their best interest to do so, and so rarely face dilemmas that can stymy others. A ruthless nature means always watching for weakness and being prepared to take advantage of opportunity. Ruthless people are often highly accountable because they see their actions as being right for the situation and so are willing to stand behind decisions.
Ruthless people, by nature, create collateral damage. Their lack of an emotional barometer means their actions often hurt others. Decision-making and execution of plans often include a steam-rolling approach, and the people around them either get out of the way or become victims. It is difficult to trust a ruthless person for fear they may 'turn' in favor of a more appealing opportunity or partnership. Ruthless people are users who will not hesitate to cast aside someone after they cease to be useful. At best, the people closest to an openly ruthless person tend to be wary, and at worse, a bed of hatred and resentment can create fertile ground for undermining and subversion. Ruthless people do not inspire others (unless they themselves are ruthless) and they lead through fear.
Third world country dictators, criminals, prostitutes, junkies, psychopaths, CEOs, stock market tycoons, soldiers in prisoner of war camps, rapists, serial killers; drug cartels; fringe religious movements; terrorists; slave & sex traders
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.
Conflicting Characteristics to make your Ruthless unique or more interesting: shy, honest, proper, worry-wart, friendly, funny