What is a story without a wicked woman? Any villain adds depth and conflict to a tale but those evil women knock us for six. We love them. And those of us who create them, have so much fun doing so.
Three of my wicked girls are among my favorite characters. We all know the behaviors that are considered evil. Exploring the motivations for wickedness requires a bit of soul-searching and an admission that, as writers, we must delve into the dark within our own conscientiousness to create these monsters.
Disney is renown for his wicked women, Maleficent is the most enduring as well as the one who has courted the most recent attention. Though she is also the wicked stepmother as was Cinderella’s nemesis, Maleficent captures our deepest longings for approval and everlasting beauty at the cost of perpetual wretched jealousy. Until recently, this wicked creature was my desktop wallpaper and I give full credit to the artists at Disney Studios (decades before Pixar) for creating such a compelling, iconic image of female malevolence.
How can we resist such power and determination?
Of all my characters, Morgan Cwmdu, of Pendyffryn: The Conquerors, comes closest to epitomizing the depths and heights of what wickedness can be achieved given full reign.
She is a villainous vixen whose obsession with destroying Caryl Gernant, as well as the lives of everyone close to her, costs Morgan the one goal she strives to achieve. Caryl is both the obstacle to that goal and Morgan’s determination to rid the world of her is the cause of Morgan’s failure to gain her cherished prize. So enthralling is Morgan Cwmdu’s efforts, she appears in some form in all five of the books of The Conquerors and returns to do her worst in the forthcoming The Inheritors series.
Another of my wicked girls is Alys Talgarth, Heledd Banawg’s nemesis in Traitor’s Daughter. Alys has self-esteem crises. Her jealousy of her cousin plays well with her own father’s fear that Heledd will discover the truth about her father’s death. These combine to encourage Alys’s petulant and cunning tricks meant to destroy her cousin. Alys will appear again in Vengeance’s Son, as determined as ever to ruin any chance of happiness that Heledd has grasped since their last meeting.
The third is Llinos Cenfyn, also a character in Traitor’s Daughter. Where Alys departs, Llinos enters. She fears that her brother, Huw Brodawel, has plans to disinherit her sons in favor of Garmon, the commander of Huw’s war band. Tormenting Garmon is her favorite pastime but encouraging her sons to pester Heledd adds considerable enjoyment to her annual sojourn to the well-ordered and peaceful enclave between the Taf and the Tawel rivers, beyond the Tywi. Llinos is an expert at “innocent” comment, sharp and snide beneath the thin veneer of civility.
Creating wicked women, as I wrote at the outset, requires an intimate knowledge of such women and a personal understanding of their motivations. I confess I am as guilty as any writer in finding wickedness both engaging and delightful to explore. Creeping into the depths of evil to discover a method to destroy it is a worthy effort. Although we are pretending to slay the worst among us, the discoveries along the path to that end often help conquer the realities that overwhelm us in the real world.
This is the reason we gravitate toward scary movies and horror stories. We can confront the demons we know are real from a safe distance. And there is liberation in expressing our darkest thoughts and desires through fiction and make-believe.
Writers can explore depravity and devilish conduct, delve into our own psyches, acknowledge that we are capable of great harm, take secret revenge on our own nemeses, face our foes and construct happy solutions—with words.