27 February 2011

Femme Fatale - believable characters and emotional baggage

I have been thinking how to organise my series on developing believable characters and have come up with an idea as old as the world

And as I am a women's fiction and romance writer I am going to start with characters who are likely to populate these genres, or with a romance/female twist. However, if you don't write in any of these genres, don't worry. The truth is that these characters populate not only fiction, but also films, theater plays and most of all - myths and real life.

Let's start with Femme Fatale.

photo by jscreationzs

Femme Fatal - Aphrodite
a.k.a The Seductive Muse (45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt), Black Widow, Siren, etc.

Key characteristics:beautiful, sexy, creative, lively, fun-loving and fully aware of her attractiveness. She has great taste for clothes, food, wine and expensive jewellery - in general a lust for life. She lives intensely, if not dramatically. If emotions are not intense they don't matter; if emotions are not intense enough - she would make them look, feel, hear, smell and touch like a nuclear exposure, but only if she has enough audience. She is the master of emotions - own and of others, always tuned in to what other may need.
She needs constant admiration and has to be the centre of attention. She seduces powerful men with her looks, sex, creativity and manipulation. And then, she dumps them because she can't give up the thrill of the chase. It's the chase that counts.

Relationships: she cares about men and not so much about women; rarely has female friends mainly because of jealousy and FF inability to relate in ways other than through sensuality and sex. She has had several lovers, sometimes more than one at a time, tends to be 'the other woman'. Her relationships are short and intense, she prefers older, 'father-figure men, with money and power. She is usually the one who ends the relationship first.

Typical backstory:
These types usually have unusually close relationships with their fathers, often coloured with over or covert seduction (including child abuse) and expectations that Daddy's Little Girl needs to be an attractive woman. Their father are often womanisers, or those who perceive woman's attractiveness though their external beauty only. More often than not these girls need to fight for their parents attention and they quickly learn that the more dramatic they become, the better the outcome.

FF's childhood is often full of changes and instability - their families move from one place to another (e.g. military families), their mothers have new lovers every month, their fathers sometimes bring home a lot of money and sometimes only debts.

Typical jobs: actress, singer, dancer, fashion and beauty, sales persons; anything where beauty and charm is necessary, but nothing requiring focus, attention to detail and structured, long-term commitment (a typical FF would not become a scientist or a CEO).

Motivation: FF usually strives for love, approval and social acceptance

Biggest fears: losing her attractiveness (ageing) and creativity; also: being in one, lasting relationship.

Potential for growth: often she would want to be recognised for her brain not only for her looks and needs to learn how to let people see beyond that (melo)dramatic facade; good at sensing emotions and needs of others FF can develop deeper empathy

Trap! Don't assume that love can heal her, even if she finally finds that Mr Right FF will struggle to settle. She needs to mature first - learn to rely on herself, not on men; become independent and most of all - give herself that approval and acceptance she longs for.

Examples from literature and film: Sally Bowles from Cabaret, Vivian in Pretty Women, Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary

You can read a little more on Femme Fatale in media here.

I can't remember reading about any FF main characters in romantic fiction recently. Does FF still have place in romance as Heroine? What do you think? Have you ever made a FF your main character?

1 comment:

  1. Ouch, my reply disappeared :(
    Thanks for the award, Carol - I'm very pleased and proud despite not feeling particularly stylish in general
    Now, since I've got Stylish Blogger award from Carol and Patsy and my blog seems to be functioning again I have no more exuses nad have to find these 7 things worth sharing and nominate bloggers. I'd better get on the case...