Blogging from A to Z challenge: A is for ambition
Welcome to my first entry for the Blogging from A to Z challenge. This is my first time ever participating, and I hope this month will be a blast. Today I had to pick a topic starting with “A”, and I chose ambition.
Everyone has ambitions. We all aspire to be something. Some of may aspire to become billionaires, others may want to become a CEO of a major company one day, or go travel around the world. We all have dreams, aspirations, and ambitions. But today I want to focus on our characters, the protagonists or secondary characters we dump into the middle of a story, and who need to achieve something – because if they didn’t do anything, or want anything, for the entire book, that would be quite boring, right?
Making your character ambitious isn’t always easy. You can get sidetracked into twenty different subplots, and easily lose track of the main goal. If it’s your character’s goal to change the world (by choice, or by destiny, or by whatever the heck else) but he/she spends half the book doing completely unrelated things, then readers will notice that. If your characters needs, desires, and ambitions, change from one chapter to another, without a rational explanation, then you need to set your character’s ambitions straight. A character can’t want to save the world in the first chapter, and want to destroy it in the next, unless something dramatic happens.
I’m not always fond of outlines. They work for some projects, but they can limit creativity as well. However, before you start writing, you need to have some clue as to what your character’s ambitions will be. What do they want? This is especially important for the main character, but counts for the secondary characters as well. How can they ever act as real people if they have no real ambitions?
Then once you’ve determined your main character’s ambitions, most of what happens in your story (if not all) has to lead to fulfill his/her ambitions, or thwart them. Your story needs to focus on those ambitions and goals. If you’ve written entire scenes that don’t bring your main character any closer (or any further away) from their ultimate ambition, consider if it wouldn’t be better to cut those scenes alltogether.
I’ve often seen beginning authors waste several chapters trailing off into side stories that offer next to nothing for the main plot, mostly because they lost track of their character’s original goals. Don’t fall into that trap.