Okay, a show of hands. How many of you think Scarlet O’Hara is much more interesting than Melanie Wilkes? Yes, we love Melanie; she is so sweet, so kind and so pure. But she could not have carried the novel Gone with the Wind like Scarlett could. And while Scarlett is not a villainess, she certainly had her scheming ways.
When I started writing Love’s Destiny, my heroine Emily vividly came alive for me; she is strong, passionate, and determined, yet she is young and, in many ways, innocent. I knew that my villainess Deidre would be outrageous, sweeping in on Jonathon and Emily’s wedding in a dangerously low-cut red gown, walking over to Jonathon and kissing him “long and full” in front of all the guests. She was the perfect foil to Emily’s innocence: a scorned lover with a deep passion for Jonathon, and revenge on her mind. While Deidre ends up with what appears to be “just deserts” at the end of the novel, don’t discount her quite so quickly.
As I was writing Love’s Spirit, Deidre became darker. Her scheming crossed the line from merely seeking to rekindle Jonathon’s desire for her, to murderous threats in order to claim what she believed was hers. Her descent into blackness of heart was fascinating to watch as I wrote the book. But as evil as she became, there were still redeeming moments when I could glimpse her good and compassionate side.
It is not easy for me to create characters with a dark side because I am a peace, love, joy kind of gal. I want everyone to just get along. I want people to be nice. But I have to admit that it is intriguing to create a character whose actions are contrary to what I would do. A character that actually enjoys stirring up trouble and, engineering the downfall of others. What drives a villainess to her dastardly deeds? Both Scarlett and Deidre derive their scheming ways as a result of unrequited love, but Deidre’s passion drives her to madness that threatens the love of Emily and Jonathon.
While maintaining all the conventions of “happily ever after”, it is often fascinating to allow a character to lead the reader into her darker world as Deidre does in Love’s Spirit.
Who is your favorite villainess?