We all know I think that motivation is the most important part of a character. And we’ve just addressed the lack of female villains. I mentioned one reason there may be less female villains (and characters in general) is because people feel less confident in writing females – and I think if we all understood female motivations better, we’d be able to write them better as most or all of what a person says and does stems from his or her motivations – how exactly they act is personality, yes, but female personality shouldn’t be hard because female personalities are really not so different from male personalities in the broad sweeps. A totally alien creature should generally be more different in personality from a man than a woman should be, for example.
But guess what? The same goes for motivation – and not just in the broad sweeps.
Consider common desires of men:
Do you think women are so different? Even in the fine details, often they’re not. Women want all the same things. Take companionship for example. Society would have us believe women want some Prince Charming to sweep us off our feet and take care of our every need and call us beautiful and wonderful and put us on a pedestal of worship – despite society’s best efforts, most woman don’t actually really want to be a Pygmalion. The stereotype also goes that we want commitment, and probably babies. So many babies. Four hundred babies. Contrariwise, men want to have sex with a woman, avoid commitment if he can, and babies are bane.
I know more than one woman who is not super interested in commitment and loathes the thought of having her own babies. I know more than one man who wants four hundred babies and hopes to find/is rather enjoying his committed relationship in which he and wife strive together to build a happy home (and I’m not even counting my own husband, although I could). Most people, I find, who want a relationship – a real relationship, real companionship – just want someone who likes them most the time and will tolerate them when they’re being intolerable. Man or woman. And I know plenty of guys who want real companionship. Do they want to have sex with their companion? Yes, but that is not the point of the companionship. And guess what? Women who want companionship – for the sake of companionship – usually do also hope to have sex with their companion. Men and women do actually tend to want the same things. Why they might want those things may differ, how they go about getting them – motivations don’t tend to be hugely different. We’re all human. (If your character isn’t human, their motivation deviation is due to race, now, isn’t it? Not so much gender. And maybe your non-humans still want a lot of the same things.)
Women too want power, and even the same kind of power, as men. You think women don’t want to be in charge of things, rule things? Have you even interacted with many women? Ever work with micromanaging elder relatives? Women could have a world domination motivation just as easily as a man. As an evil overlord, that’s my motivation.
What about the crazy psychopath anarchist villains who just want to see the world burn? True, far more men than women are diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t sadistic women who enjoy the suffering of others. Here, it is important to remember women, as scientifically shown, do tend towards emotional warfare, which includes relational attacks and psychological attacks. But that certainly doesn’t mean women won’t be physically violent as well.
Lucre may well show great deviation in the execution, but riches and money is enticing to men and women alike. Men and women both like money, plain old money that can buy anything. Women may have a higher desire for jewelry, or else may be more likely to keep taken jewelry than a man who would take it for its value to sell. Men, I think from my own experience, may tend a little more towards entertainment than women – the big TV and fancy game systems, for example. However, I totally have a big video game budget; there are men who like their pretty shinies, though oft of a different style than women. Clearly these stereotypes are not something you ought to stick to in any strictness. Men and women both like fancy clothes and fancy cars, quality living spaces and quality food. Having money means having things and it seems sentient beings like to have things regardless of other factors, like gender. What things vary from personality to race to culture to gender, but we all like to have things, generally speaking.
Justice – When one’s friend or father or child is slain, men and women both will feel grief over the loss. They will both be moved to tears, even if the man is conditioned not to cry, and they will both want some sort of justice, and may well be moved to find revenge. Again the relational side of women may cause major deviations in how vengeance is sought. Perhaps she will look for everyone to know what a horrible person the killer is, make sure they can have no relationships. Perhaps she will try to destroy the killer with the killer’s own guilt. But there’s nothing to say she won’t chase across the world guns and eyes blazing like any other action hero, either. What might trigger the desire for justice can vary – but generally, men and women both feel strong attachments to people, animals, and objects.
So what are the motivations of a female villain? Drum roll please – the same motivations as a male villain. They’re not different. Execution may be different but the motivations are the same. You know why? Men and women are still both humans and humans want things that are the same things. Men and women are very similar. They really are. Are they different? Yes. But we cajole that the one is an alien species to the other – and while there are definitely very critical differences beyond genitalia between men and women, in general, they’re similar, sometimes the same even. Remember at the beginning of the post when I said it shouldn’t be so hard to write female personalities because they’re not going to be dramatically different from male personalities? Figuring out female motivations should be even easier than that, because they are no different than male motivations.