This is all I have so far…
This list doesn’t mean your character should have every single one of the traits on it, but they’re strong ones to consider. Pick and choose the ones that fit your character best from these:
You may be able to think of more…! Either way, it’s important that you keep this character balanced. It’s too easy to attribute too many negative traits to power-hungry characters. So here’s how to round them out…
The key things you want to know are:
- Why does your character want power? How have their current circumstances influenced that desire? What do they stand to gain, and what do they stand to lose? This is where you can really get to understand your character. Ask them ‘why?’ until they can’t answer you any more. They should have a clear reason for striving towards their goal, after all.
- What kind of power are they aiming for? Do they want to become the head of an important company, or are they looking more at ruling the country? The world? Think hard about the extent of the power they’re after. If they did ever achieve the top spot, what kind of things would they be capable of, or be allowed to do?
- Who is in the way? To get power, you have to take power. So who is your character up against in their quest for more influence?
- When did they become power hungry? In other words, what is the catalyst to their ambition? People don’t seek further power without a real reason; there are plenty of people in the world who are happy to accept where they are, and what they are allowed to do in that position. There is generally an awakening moment when the person thinks, ‘actually, I don’t want to live this way any more’ and so they seek a way to change their circumstances.
- How do they gain power? What kind of behaviours are they willing to carry out in order to get their way? What obstacles do they have to clear? Think about their path to power and how it shapes them.
We’re not born with an inherent need to take over the country we live in, or to lead a business or beat the whole class in academic exams. Something makes us decide why we want those things. Your character needs a catalyst to their desire for power, too.
Either they’re pushed into it, they decide they want it or they are taught to strive for it.
The Path to Power
You need to think about when your character sets their plans in motion, and what kind of things they do as they climb up the ladder. Nobody goes from the very bottom to the very top overnight. Treat each rung like one major event in the timeline until you get to the end.
Gaining power requires a lot of groundwork. Some things to consider:
- The friends they make;
- The enemies they make;
- How the one currently in the position of power views them (do they admire your character or distrust them? What kind of things might they do (either intentionally or unintentionally) to allow your character to creep closer to the top?);
- What your character does to gain trust/likability;
- What your character does to gain control/fear.
Achieving power is one thing, holding onto power is another. What does your character do to protect their place? Who threatens their position? This is when your character becomes desperate to justify their actions, and when they may consider behaviour they previously thought immoral (or never considered before).
At this point, your character may be ruthless. What is the worst thing they are prepared to do in order to keep their power?
Support and Protest
Of course, other people keep this character in power in two ways:
- Through support;
- or through silence.
What happens to those who don’t keep silent? What kind of things do the supporters have to do to retain their power? Additionally, how much support is there, and how much protest? What kind of things do the protesters do to affirm their beliefs?
Nothing stays the same forever. Either power is ripped from your character or they pass on the power to somebody else, beginning a whole new era. Think about what kind of end would suit your power-hungry character.
I think that’s about it…
History has some of the most fascinating and awful tales of people rising to power. Even if you’re not writing a character aiming for a throne or to rule a kingdom, country or world, understanding real people is a good step forward when it comes to basing characters on them.
I hope all of this is of some actual use, ha ha… ;;;;; (Btw, the blog loves you, too!)