Problems With Ruling The World – A Character Exercise

Everybody wants to rule the world...or do they?

Does your fiction include a character who wants to rule the world (or one who, perhaps, already rules it?)

We’d like to put aside the plot ramifications of world dominion for now.  At this moment, we’d like to propose a writing exercise to help you get a little deeper into your villain’s character:

How does she deal with the challenges of her new position?  Ruling is not easy work, not even if you have tremendous power.  (Guilty secret: We stopped following “Game of Thrones” because we recognized: There’s no way in hell we’d ever want to sit on that throne.  That’s just a clear path to unhappiness in life.  Conversely, we admire Dark Jedi Joruus C’baoth, who, when confronted with a path to power similar to the Emperor’s, refused it.  He noted that he had absolute life-and-death control over the village in which he lived, and that this was far more satisfying to him than technically ‘ruling’ a vast swathe of people he would never meet).  The ambition to rule is exciting; the act of actually ruling can be a draining, frustrating challenge.

(We’d also like to postulate that one of the reasons living conditions are often terrible under an evil overlord isn’t because the overlord lacks empathy, but because of The Peter Principle – that is, the skills you need to achieve dominion are not necessarily as the skills you need to be good at it.)

Here are three questions we’d like to pose to you.  You can use them to flesh out your villain and gain some insight into his mind.  Try answering these, as a writing exercise:

  • When you work hard at a goal, and you’ve finally achieved it, you sometime hit a slump.  You ask yourself, “Now what?”  That’s psychologically challenging when your goal is just “Gain a hundred Twitter followers”.  How much more painful it must be when your goal is universal conquest!  So the question we’d like you to ask yourself is, “What does your villain do to fill up the void in her life, now that she’s succeeded?  What does she strive for now?
  • How are the demands of ruling differ from the demands of battling for control?  Going from an aspiring author to a published author is can be life-changing; going from an aspiring world conqueror to the owner of the world has got to be life-changing.  How does your villain deal with that level of change?
  • And finally, this thought.  Even normal people sometimes step on or hurt others in the process of climbing a ladder of “success”.  Your villain’s assuredly hurt a lot of people to get where she is.  Here’s an existential crisis: Was it all worthwhile? And if not, what can she do about it?

-The Dark Lord Journal

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