One thing I don’t like in fiction is female villains. A lot of their motivations tend to be cliche or at worst, misogynistic. It’s irritating that women villains cannot possess the same motivations of their male counterparts.
Here is a short post on helping you craft better female villains. I don’t say good because you still need to have good characterization as a skill, but if you get the motivation right, your villain will at least be better.
Cliche motivations for female villains are anything of the following:
- Anything related to “women’s issues.” The glass ceiling, relationships, unequal pay, domestic abuse, falling in love with a male Bad Boy, etc. Don’t use these issues as motivation to make the woman bad.
- “Amazon Women from Mars” or something along the lines of Women vs. Men in a misogynistic way.
- “Queen Bitch.” The female is a villain simply because she has power/money/magic, etc.
To have a motivation that doesn’t fall into these kind of traps, think of the tropes heroines are motivated to pursue and simply make the consequences of their actions bad. Despite this, they continue their goals.
For example: A super heroine pounds the living tar out of some bad guys who are trying to fire a laser at a nuclear plant thus making the Chernobyl disaster a walk in the park. Heroine saves the day. End of story. The villainess does the same thing. The bad guys die along with the support personnel who had no idea they were working on a laser to destroy a nuclear plant. This turns into a legal nightmare for the government who have a duty to enforce the law.
If this was a super heroine, she would probably hang up her cape and call it a day or mend her ways. The villainess won’t. The ends justify the means—after all, innocent lives were at stake. She does it again, this time to low-life bank robbers, then muggers, then to some teenagers vandalizing a beautiful park because she can’t control her strength (and doesn’t really care to). Sooner or later, the government has enough and puts resources to have her arrested.
The villainess now fights the government, the police, the National Guard, etc. She rationalizes they are nothing more than a system of control and the best way to deal with it is to destroy it.
One of the things that makes for a great villain is the ability to rationalize their actions in small steps, but it scales up. Real life crook Bernie Madoff didn’t wake up one morning and decided, “I’m going to create the biggest fraud in history today!” No, he altered a trade sheet here and there. He obtained and spent a $250k meant for investments here and there. He continued until he racked up billions in fraud. If he was caught in his very first year of defrauding investors, he would probably be out of prison by now. Change the gender and now you have a female villain whose primary motivation is greed, starts small, and then it builds up.