I’m in the midst of a fascinating discussion on creating a believable female antagonist using Sean Mactire’s book Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think. In the last post, I offered three categories of female killer. Today I’ll discuss the characteristics female killers have in common.
(These aren’t serial killers, just my grandma and my great-grandma. But they look tough, don’t they?)
Female serial killers are usually young and intelligent. They’re average age is 32 years, just a few years older than their male counterparts. Their killing sprees usually average ten years before their caught, but Mactire points out that the range has been anywhere from a few months to over thirty years. Their occupation may be:
- Career criminal
- Professional housekeeper/caretaker
- Business owner
- College student
- Disaffected debutante
(Those disaffected debutants can really surprise you. Stick one in your novel and see what happens!)
Mactire then says something that could be considered offensive if it weren’t based on facts: “Despite a high proportion of lower-class black women who commit domestic killings or economic crimes, most female serial killers are white and middle or upper class. Only one known woman serial killer was black and middle class.” So make your disaffected debutant a Caucasian girl, please, and it’ll be more believable.
He goes on: “While spouse/partner abuse is now a socially acceptable reason for killing, the women who commit serial crimes do not generally kill their abusers. These women are predominately victims of a variety of abuse, from sexual to emotional, but the motives for their crimes are generally not related to abuse.” The “socially acceptable” threw me for a minute. I think it’s more that these victims are sympathetic, so society isn’t as harsh in punishing these women. But I digress. If you’re antagonist is female, keep these common traits in mind and you’ll fashion a believable bad girl.
In my next post, I’ll discuss the victims of female killers and how they are hunted.