My second novel is set to release in just a few weeks and while I can’t wait to tease you with the storyline, my mind is also on the bad guy—make that girl—in the story. Because while Dance Over Me has been going through my publisher’s editorial and production cycle, I’ve written the sequel featuring a different secondary character and plotted the conclusion of the series where I redeem the villain.
First, let’s set the stage—literally—because Dance Over Me takes place in a dinner theater complete with musical drama, tap dancing, and big-band trumpet playing. Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.
Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?
(And will you take the opportunity to use this shameless link to hop on over to Amazon and pre-order a copy now?) Dance Over Me
The story opens with the heroine walking up onto the stage for an important audition and before the end of the first page there’s a snicker from the peanut gallery. Chapter one ends with the bombshell diva, Gloria, quirking an eyebrow at our heroine and telling Dani to try to keep up.
Honestly, I had so much fun writing my diva character in that first draft and might have actually cackled a few times as my fingers danced across the keyboard. While coming up with two-faced criticisms and princess mannerisms. I took every Junior High mean girl tactic I had ever seen or read about or encountered in real life people and put those into Gloria’s character as she rubbed shoulders with our heroine backstage, onstage, and even back at the company apartment they shared. Boy does she ever make life miserable for my heroine and give Dani lots of opportunities to grow her own character, practice patience, and learn to stand up for herself.
But somewhere along the way writing the story, I was reminded that villains aren’t all bad. There has to be something good about them because even if they act badly, truly evil psychopaths are rare in real life (and non-existent in inspirational romance stories). So I started asking why. Why was my diva so threatened by Dani? Why did she crave the attention at all costs? Even with her own talent and good looks and cute boyfriend and starring role and rich daddy, why did she need more?
Once I discovered those reasons, I not only toned her behavior down during the rewrites, but I also found places in the story to weave in glimpses of her vulnerability and fear. To hint at the fact that while her dad might give her expensive things, what she wanted most was his time. That if she couldn’t get that attention from him, she’d seek a substitute through the applause of an audience and do whatever it took to stay in the spotlight.
As I dug deeper into the life of my antagonist in order to make her more believable, I wondered what it would take for her to change her tune and that’s where the fun really began as Dani’s stand-alone story became a series. Of course, with an ego as big as Gloria’s, it would take time to craft a believable heart transformation so I decided to feature her in book three. Book two became my opportunity to start chinking away at her armor and plant the seeds of truth from the perspective of Dani’s outspoken roommate Liz. Book three will then include enough humble pie to make her face the truth about herself…and change. But enough about where her story ends, because today is all about the obstacles she presents in Dani’s journey.
In a nutshell, creating believable bad guys (or girls) includes three steps:
1) Draw from the real-life experiences we all face in order to trigger those memories of schoolyard cliques or workplace position-jockeying in the mind of the reader. This element of truth creates an emotional connection and makes our hero or heroine more sympathetic.
2) Dig deep to discover why the jerk acts like a jerk. What internal wound are they trying to mask? What empty place are they trying to fill? Are they even really a jerk or is that simply the perception of the main character as viewed through his/her own painful past?
3) Weave hints or clues about those reasons into the storyline. Be subtle, but make sure it’s there for savvy readers to uncover. And as a bonus, figure out a place to show the bad guy doing something good for a change.
Now it’s your turn. Get a sneak peek at the prologue and first chapter of Dance Over Me by signing up for my newsletter at CandeeFick.com (then you’ll get notified when books two and three of this series become available too!)
If you haven’t already used that shameless promotional link earlier in the post, go ahead now and pre-order Dance Over Me then send the order confirmation by email to Candee [at] CandeeFick.com to be entered into an extra drawing for an autographed copy of my stand-alone debut Catch of a Lifetime. (Please put “Preorder Contest” in the Subject line so it doesn’t get overlooked.)
Last, today I’m offering two copies of Dance Over Me (one print and one Kindle) to two lucky visitors. Tell us: Who is your favorite fictional villain and what would it take to redeem them?