Writing Lesson: Conniving Women

There are a lot of women villains in movies and television now. Have you ever dissected one of these characters? If you want to create one of these dangerous, conniving women, how do you go about it?

One way is to observe a woman like this. In real life, this is a bit tricky. Fortunately, there are other ways to find a woman and pull away the layers of deceit to discover the truth behind her usually appealing facade. It's much easier to take a look at a movie built around a deceitful, conniving woman and see how she spins her web.

Recently, I watched an old movie that perfectly depicts the manipulation and deceit of a conniving woman. If you haven't seen All About Eve, made in 1950 and listed as one of the Top 100 Movies by AFI®, for the sake of characterization, get a copy and watch it.

You can buy it on Amazon or view it on Netflix. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and 5 Golden Globes, it's still compelling and captivating in its portrayal of a seemingly gentle starstruck fan who adores the glamorous -- and aging Broadway diva Margo Channing.

About the Film

The film itself is a fabulous look at New York theater life in 1950 as well as the struggle of an established star to stay on top. It's a dog eat dog world in the entertainment business, and that was just as true then as it is now.

All About Eve won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (George Sanders). Bette Davis played aging actress Margo Channing and Anne Baxter played the starstruck fan with a hidden agenda.

Analyze & Learn

If you're a writer, take note of Eve, the gentle, sad fan who waits by the stage door. See how Eve, played superbly by Anne Baxter, first attracts the attention of Margo's friend, how she gets that introduction to the great star, and then how she makes herself indispensable to Margo.

There is a brief moment when you get a glimpse of Eve's ambition. There are 2 people who see behind Even's facade. One instinctively doesn't like her -- pure gut instinct. The other is someone as deceitful as she. It takes one to know one, right?

Watch how Eve sets everything up to get her big break, and see how she tramples on everyone in her way. In fact, make notes about the progression of the plot from beginning to end because it's a perfect character arc, except in this case, it's from apparent goodness to villainy.

Characterization lesson apart, the film is glamorous and one of the best women movies ever. The cast were at the top of their game when this movie was made. You even get a glimpse of the young ingenue Marilyn Monroe in a bit part. One of the best scenes in All About Eve occurs at the end. What goes around, comes around.

Takeaway Truth

Watch people -- all kinds of people. Since denizens of deceit don't usually reveal themselves to the casual observer, find those characters in film and study them carefully. Then apply what you've learned to your writing.

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