Well, for starters, you could stop thinking of her as female first, antagonist second. It should be the other way around. Or, you could simply think of her as the antagonist, regardless of gender. If you were to create a male antagonist, how would you go for it? Could you use the same techniques if you are creating a female antagonist? The answer would be both yes and no. It might seem complicated, however, creating a good antagonist means looking deeper into that character and finding the core values that define him, or her, as an antagonist. Below, you will find several things you need to look into, questions you need to answer for your antagonist to be a credible and believable one, especially if they are female.
1. Need of credibility
If you are going to write a female antagonist, you need to be aware of one very important thing. Female antagonists are rare and few between, and are generally not very popular. The reason why this is happening is because females – mothers, daughters, women, symbolize life. Mothers are nurturing and caring, and women, by default, have a harder time being credible and believable villains. You might protest and say how there are plenty of un-credible male villains out there. That is true; however, women have an even harder time of suspending disbelief as a primary antagonist or a villain. So make sure your antagonist is credible, well defined, and most of all – make sure that the villain, regardless of gender, is not looking to gain more power just for the sake of power. Power without purpose is neither scary nor difficult to beat, and it just makes any antagonist perfectly one dimensional and easy to get rid of.
2. Great backstory
By great backstory, we mean avoid romantic clichés like the woman who turned bad because men spurned her. Romance is important in any person’s life, but a broken heart rarely spawns femme fatales that want to hurt other people in a twisted form of revenge. There are bigger things in life, bigger hurts that can turn a good person bad. The scariest antagonist is the one who is convinced that whatever she are doing is the right thing to do. The antagonist is the protagonist of her own story, her own goal, and you need to give her as solid backstory as you are going to give to your protagonist. A solid backstory, paired with determination can turn your meager female antagonist into a scary antagonist that is difficult to beat. Moreover, the antagonist in that case is real – she lived a life that made her into who she is today, and as such, you need to look deep into her personality, and find the right backstory – events from her life that have triggered the correct responses and made her become that way.
3. Core values
Any antagonist needs core values that they follow. Your antagonist might have had the best intentions at the start, but somehow, everything had taken a turn. A female antagonist that is bad just for the sake of being bad, who seeks power just because, is not believable. Your antagonist will not show any core values in that case, and she will lose any credibility. So, ask yourself, what does she stand for? What are her values and how are they influencing her decisions? And most of all, you need to ask the question: why does she not have an ounce of compassion? Remember, her core values do not have to be bad, or unethical. They can be both good and bad, but they need to be twisted into a form that makes her act without regard for others, but convinced that she is doing the right thing.
4. Clear purpose and expertise
There are different ways you can work with purposes and goals. The protagonist might be trying to achieve a goal, while the antagonist works to prevent it. In that case, why is the antagonist trying to stop the protagonist? You can do it the other way around – what is the antagonist trying to achieve, and why is it imperative that the protagonist stop her? Or, both the protagonist and the antagonist can have separate goals, but clash somewhere in between. How your protagonist and antagonist will clash in your story depends on the story and on the characters. However, you should make sure that they both do have goals that are well reasoned, and supported by their backstories and current lives. Do not forget to give her expertise – whatever it is that she is doing, she is an expert at it. You need to show that she rarely miscalculates or makes mistakes, and of course, never have her speaking of her plans to allow the protagonist time to escape a tricky situation. Because that is not expertise, and it’s very cliché.
5. Make her redeemable
This is the reason why the antagonist’s backstory is important, and so are her values and reasons behind her actions. You can make her character redeemable. This does not mean that she will go down the path of redemption and become a protagonist. All you need to present is the possibility. For example, the antagonist might work against your protagonist, but you can add dimension to her villainy by showing her in a good light – helping a friend, doing a selfless deed, etc. Make sure she will remain in character, but present the possibility that she is not all bad. Create the kind of antagonist that works towards a goal out of conviction and a twisted interpretation of her core values, rather than working out of plain selfishness. This will make her relatable, understandable, and moreover, it will show how deep her conviction is, and how difficult it will actually be to defeat her.
Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.