TROPE OF THE WEEK: Ruthless Leader

red skull

This big bad rules his flock with an iron fist. Anyone who dares step out of line serves to become an example for others on how not to behave. While sometimes stepping out of line can mean that you failed your mission horribly, the boss might also decide to kill you just because you looked at him the wrong way. This villain can rule a company, a country, a religion — as long as he’s got power and minions.

Why this can be bad: There is some truth in fiction here: from rulers like Josef Stalin and Henry VIII to people like James Cameron and Steve Jobs. While some are obviously more reprehensible than others, all of them found ways to abuse their lackeys. For some, it worked; for others, it didn’t. When it comes to fiction, however, leaders can sometimes be out of control in their tempers and badness, making the audience question why anyone even follows them. If the leader has no redeeming qualities, then why should he have an army of henchmen waiting to serve him? While people can put up with a lot of abuse, if you don’t give them a reason to stay, you won’t. Even then, everyone has a breaking point. Yet for some reason, these people still follow these cold-hearted, ruthless hell-spawn and almost never think of leaving.

How you can fix it: If you have a ruthless leader, remember that there are going to be consequences for everything. Killing the wrong person or too many people can result in an uprising. Not paying your employees? Good luck keeping them. If your leader is cruel, make sure the behavior of his lackeys follows suit. Need a reason for those lackeys to stay? Give the leader some redeeming qualities; he got to this position somehow, right? Whether it’s how generous he is with his money, he has a soft spot when you talk about your kids, or he’s generally kind unless you cross him, he needs something that’s going to inspire loyalty in his men. And if it’s just fear that’s controlling those men, then prepare for the upcoming rebellion.

Bottom Line: Even fear has its limits, and it will take more than that for a ruthless leader to control his lackeys.

One comment on “TROPE OF THE WEEK: Ruthless Leader

  1. jbgarner58 says:

    Reblogged this on J. B. Garner – Musings of a Starving Author and commented:
    Some excellent points in this week’s Trope of the Week to keep your Big Bad fresh.

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