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My protagonist meets a Queen who is incredibly beautiful, acts very flirtatiously and is naive on most topics despite the fact she is a young adult. In short, she fulfils every stereotype of what a poorly written female villain usually is (sexy, wears revealing clothes, motives are probably to do with a man who broke her heart, little to no real personality). However, later in the book, it's revealed that she has been the mastermind for the entire plot, influencing everyone without their knowing. Her entire persona changes and it's shown that the 'naive young woman' was just an act. She is actually cunning, cold and fully aware of how to use her sexuality as a weapon, as well as making it clear that the mind is the more powerful weapon than the body.

Thing is, I don't know how to effectively hide her from the readers whilst also insinuating and foreshadowing she is more than she seems. Also I don't want her to be perceived as a poorly written character. I want the readers to see her as an interesting person, analyse her and write her off as a threat instead of going "Oh no, another author has written an overly sexualised woman with no clear personality or motive."

How do I go about doing that?

3 Answers 3

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Misdirection

You could show her doing intelligent things, but to provide plausible excuses for why it is an accident, before quickly moving the reader on to something that overshadows the event.

The reader knows that every scene - every word - serves a purpose. We just need to have two or more potential purposes, and convince them that the real purpose is not the best explanation.

Example

Background: The Hero must petition the Queen for something in the formal court.

Scene: Upon reaching the court, the Hero observes that two women are petitioning a carbon copy of the Judgement of Solomon. The Queen, seemingly both bored and angry, plays her part, ordering the baby cut in half.

But when the imposter reveals herself by agreeing to the judgement, the Queen doesn't appear to get it! She motions her guard forward to kill the baby, and turns to her advisor to present the next case to her. The timely intersession of the advisor is the only thing that saves the baby, and ensures that the it is reunited with its mother. The Hero marvels at how the Queen stumbled into such an elegant solution, and then almost missed it.

Then the "real" scene with the Hero's petition begins.

Results: We could be showing that the Queen is very intelligent - she knew the real mother would rather the baby live, and she knows that her advisor will be quick enough to figure out her plan and take action.

But we provide a plausible - perhaps more plausible - alternative; the Queen was angry that they brought such a silly case to her, and ordered the baby killed out of spite. That it revealed the true parent is an accident.

The reader assumes we are showing how naive, and cruel, the impulsive the Queen is, because we have primed them to see that instead of the truth.

Then we go to the "real scene" where the Hero has to do Plot Things and the reader mostly forgets about the Judgement of Solomon, because we've distracted them with the next shiny thing.

If we do a couple of these "happy accidents" it can go a long way to setting the stage for the big reveal later on.

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One approach that can work is to not start her up so high.

Have her play the empty-headed beauty, but she got to where she is by a circuitous route -- and she repeatedly explains this by "I was so lucky", or so fortunate, etc.

In reality, she was not lucky, all her "luck" was engineered by her. She is calculating, a manipulator. Her parents did not abandon her, she left, because she had an opportunity to be adopted by a richer couple that she charmed.

All her "lucky breaks" were her, seducing people, getting people killed, playing the victim while victimizing others, to ascend the social ladder.

She is not over-sexualized. She has known since she was a child how to behave so adults would coddle her, take her in, provide for her. She has known since she finished puberty that romance and seduction were a power she had.

So sexuality is, for her, another tool to manipulate and control people, men or women. She can take or leave sex, it is at times just a fun sport, but primarily a tool she uses to gain power.

Edit: Also, when the reader figures out who she really is; you want all those stories she told that built sympathy for her ("I lost my parents when I was just six years old"; etc) to still hold together, in perhaps a more horrifying way.

If a reader goes back and re-reads them, they will still make sense, and are still basically true: She intentionally "lost" her parents when she was six years old.

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This is easiest done if you write this character from the viewpoint of another character. That way, you don't have to somehow cloak the true personality of the queen behind her falsehoods and narrate both without giving too much away. Instead you simply describe how the viewpoint character perceives her, that is you don't actually describe the queen, instead you describe the viewpoint character's misconception.

That way you can present a unified image and don't have to foreshadow anything, and the reader will be just as shocked as the viewpoint character when the queen's true nature is revealed.

If you don't want to write a limited perspective or you want to make the reader doubt the viewpoint character's perceptions, you can sprinkle some irritating incongruities into your narrative that the viewpoint character either ignores, while the reader's warning bells begin to shrill, or explains away ("She didn't mean it that way, I'm sure.")

How sudden and shocking versus how gradual and expected you want the revelation of the queen's true personality to be will depend on the tale you want to tell. Do you want to portray how someone is being misled? Then you'll want to show how she is being manipulated. Or do you want to build an ever increasing expectation in the mind of the reader only to have her fall even deeper? Then you'll want to make the lie complete and reveal it in a maximally painful manner.

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