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Monday, March 11, 2013

Villains—A Battle of the Sexes

As writers and readers of romantic suspense, thrillers and mysteries we’re all familiar with villains. They come in varied shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds, and can be male or female.

When a writer builds a villain they:

1. Give them motivation for their actions (even if the character’s thinking is skewed).

2. Give them a few good points to go with all the bad stuff because this makes the character more rounded and maybe a bit likeable.

3. Give them a great name because every character deserves a great name.

4. Give them a similar conflict to the hero or heroine, but a different way to solve their problems.

5. Steer clear of clichés!

But when it comes to sex, that’s when a writer can change things up. After all, men are from Mars and women come from Venus. J

A female villain:

1. She can use her sex appeal, her feminine wiles to get exactly what she wants. Seduction and sex as a weapon.

2. She can exert force and use guns, knives and other weapons to meet her goal, but she’s more likely to use subtlety.

3. She can act ruthlessly and without remorse.

4. She can be cute and sweet and have an inner core of steel. Think of some of those Southern Belles!

5. She does manipulation with flare.

6. She’s excellent at multi-tasking and is extremely intelligent.

Examples of Female Villains:

1. Annie Wilkies in Misery (movie and book)
2. Cruella de Vil in One Hundred and One Dalmatians
3. Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction – that poor bunny!
4. The Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
5. Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wars Prada

A male villain:

1. He’s more likely to be upfront rather than sneaky. In most circumstances he won’t beat around the bush or aim for subtlety.

2. He’s more likely to carry out the tasks himself rather than delegate because he likes to control the situation.

3. He’s good at planning and strategy, especially if he has a military/police background.

4. He’s usually experienced with different types of weapons.

5. He’s intelligent and doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

6. He’s more likely to use brute force.

Examples of Male Villains:

1. Jack Randall in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
2. Darth Vador in Star Wars.
3. Lash in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood.
4. James Ardmore in The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley.
5. Dr. Zachary Smith in Lost in Space.
6. Gollum in Lord of the Rings

Male or female, I’m sure we agree that the character needs to be multi-faceted, motivated and interesting. He or she shouldn’t become a laughable cardboard cutout. Here’s a link to an article on Creating a Credible Villain that gives some great tips and another link about questions to ask your villain character.

Do you prefer reading/writing male or female villains? Do you have any fictional favorites? Is there anything that makes you cringe when it comes to villains?

Note – This post was inspired by a guest post at my blog written by Carol Van Atta, The Female Villain: She’s Alive, Well and Ready to bite.

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy. To learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website at 


Mary Kirkland said...

I like reading male villains better than females but I do have to say that the first one that came to mind was Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.

Toni Anderson said...

Great post, Shelly. I think authors need to love their villains. Even the ones who do terrible things. I think my favourite villain is still Hannibal Lecter. I think it's due to his wicked intelligence and Anthony Hopkins :)

Clare London said...

Oh I LOVE villains LOL, they're so often more fun to read and write than the heroes. And if they're written well, you can understand their motivation and angst even while you're rooting for them to be defeated.

Just for interest, I write m/m where there's often an unpleasant tendency to make the female character the bad-guy! I admit I've had female villains, but not *because* they were female :).

Anne Marie Becker said...

I'm with Clare - writing villains is fun. It allows me to explore the dark side of humanity, and what could happen if one chose a different path. I've been toying with the idea of making a female serial killer in my Mindhunters series...they're not as common (or maybe they just don't get caught - heh!). What I came up with for my recent WIP is so much fun - a mother-son duo. It's been interesting fleshing out that twisted pair...

JB Lynn said...

I tend to LOVE my villains. I'm writing a female villain right now and having a blast.

Chelsea Cain's "Gretchen Lowell" is one of my faces!

Rita said...

Sorry I’m late to the party. It’s National Nap Day and I was participating.
Villains are the bestist. I like them all. Yay villains!

Jean Harrington said...

Love those battles, Shelly. What's more fun for an author than creating a villain? In your piece here you nailed so many salient points. I'm writin''em down.

Shelley Munro said...


Nurse Ratchet fits the bill all right. Most of my villains seem to be male. I was thinking as I wrote this post that it's time for me to try a female one.

Shelley Munro said...


Hannibal Lector always gives me the chills. He's a great villain.

Shelley Munro said...


That's interesting about the m/m genre. I've read quite a few and haven't noticed this. I have several in my to-read pile. I'll have to pay closer attention.

Shelley Munro said...

Anne Marie - I read some statistics in a blog recently that said female serial killers are common, but they're smarter about it and don't get caught as much. I don't know how true this is.

Shelley Munro said...

JB - writing villains allows us to walk on the dark side :)

Shelley Munro said...


I need to celebrate this National day. I could really do with a nap right now!

Shelley Munro said...


I'm glad the post was useful.

Maria Zannini said...

I like villains who are exceptionally clever. For some reason, female villains tend to come off exceedingly chilling. Maybe because women tend to be nurturers.

All I know is that I wouldn't want to meet them.

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