I’m always discovering new things about the process behind my writing, and as I’m as fascinated by the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the craft as I am the actual stories, I thought I’d write a little blog post.
I can’t dance. As a little girl, I had notions of being a ballerina, but my general lack of co-ordination and gangliness pretty swiftly disabused me of that notion. I was an OK gymnast, and I loved it, but I could never get the hang of actual dancing. That didn’t stop me from making up dance routines in the dining room to music from the likes of Phil Collins and Michael Jackson, pretending all the while I was onstage, rocking out with the best of them, though!
As my teenage years hit, I, of course, shared the odd slow dance with a boy or two at school discos, but since that didn’t involve much else other than shuffling around and sweating profusely against some willing male’s shellsuited chest (hey, this was the early 1990s, they were acceptable then!), even I could cope with that. Being tall was a bit of an inhibitor for the opposite sex, as well, as no-one really wanted to dance with a beanpole (sob!). I do remember a couple of really good dances, though…there’s a certain song by The Righteous Brothers that will always trigger off a memory of a tall, dark and decidedly good looking boy who, sadly, I never kissed, but, to be honest, being held in his arms was enough.
When I at last became a grown up (physically, at least!), the need to dance kind of petered out. My husband, for all of his many virtues, isn’t one for dancing, so despite my best efforts to get him down to the village salsa night, he won’t indulge me. And while we have had some lovely dances in the past (a certain nightclub on Weston sea front, and a certain Toni Braxton song from the late 1990s spring to mind), it’s not really our ‘thing’. And as for the time I decided I actually would try to learn ballet, the eye rolling of the dance teacher at the local YMCA at my very, very best efforts was enough to crush my erstwhile dreams of attaining some kind of swan like elegance. An ugly duckling at the barre I would always be, it seemed…
Having children of the girl variety has given me more of a chance to get my groove on; I do flail about with them in the privacy of my own living room, and it is lots of fun. The music’s still cheesy, and I do jiggle a bit more than I used to, but it’s fun for all of us. I’ve so far resisted the urge to enrol them in dance classes as a way of living out my own fantasies, but if they wanted to learn some kind of dancing one day, I wouldn’t be averse to it.
I’m in awe of those who actually can dance; and watching actual, proper dancers doing their thing fills me with amazement. Perhaps that’s why dancing, even if it’s just the shuffling-about-on-the-spot variety works its way into my writing so much. And even if it doesn’t make the final cut of a story, it’s almost guaranteed to be there at the start. I wrote a piece of Tomb Raider (movieverse) fanfiction named ‘Dancing’ several years ago, and it begins with a scene where Lara Croft is practising ballroom dancing with her butler Hillary. Lara, despite her physical fitness is a terrible dancer and Hillary has the unenviable task of teaching her before the Ambassador’s Ball at Croft Manor..
“I don’t see why I have to learn all this rubbish,” Lara complained again. “It’s not as if the Ambassador will pay any attention to me anyway-there are going to be far more interesting people at the ball than me, and more people who are closer in line to the British throne!” She looked down at her feet. “I can ride horses, swing from any manner of chandeliers, do three kinds of martial art and tie a sheet bend in a thunderstorm-why the hell do I have to learn to waltz as well?” Clearly not amused by her own feet, she looked back up at her butler. Even in socked feet he was at least four inches taller than she, something she hadn’t noticed until now, when he was so close to her.
Dancing: A Lara/Hillary Tomb Raider Fanfiction, Ch.1
Eventually, obviously, she learns enough to manage at the ball, and in the course of the story she and Hillary learn to do more than just dance, but then I am a shameless romantic (and a Lara/Hillary shipper!), so I guess that won’t come as a great surprise.
The story was originally hosted at my website, Laraandhillary.net, but I eventually let the site lapse, so it’s now just at FanFiction.net, here. And, of course, there are one or two fanvids ;).
Dancing has featured in a lot of my fanfiction. One of the pieces I most enjoyed writing was a piece for the Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon series, called Sentience. The kids are invited back to Tardos Keep, to celebrate Sentience Night, which is sort of like New Year’s Eve and Hallowe’en combined, and there’s a ball. The dancing brings together three couples, one of whom need that little extra shove to declare their feelings, and it’s the intimacy of the dancing that triggers their emotions. It’s here if you want to read it.
Far From the Tree began with a dance scene. I never used it, because a) it was really badly written, and b) there was no call for my characters to dance in that context but it was the first scene I wrote; a kind of jumping off point for me to get to know them. Because when you dance, there’s nowhere to go; nowhere to hide. There’s just you, the music and the other person, even if you’re surrounded by a thousand other people. The intimacy of that is very seductive. There is a dance scene in a later story in the Little Somerby universe; let’s see if it makes the final cut!
I’ve also recently written a dancing scene that’ll probably go into book 4. I was driving home, listening to the music on my iPhone and Bryan Ferry’s Slave to Love came on. This song inspired me in a few ways; it’s the perfect song for book 2’s couple, Jonathan and Caroline, but it also gave me a really strong visual for another scene. There’s another couple (and yes, I know who they are, or at least, their roles), dancing at the end of an evening. They knew each other a long time ago, but were never lovers. There was always a frisson, though; always the whiff of possibility. They took separate paths, but they’re thrown back together again, and the dance, at the moment, is both a beginning and an ending. Once again, this is dancing of the shuffling about variety, as opposed to the flinging each other around the floor type, but it’s no less seductive for that. Where they go after the song ends? They haven’t told me yet! But one thing’s for sure; even if I can’t dance, I’ll make damned sure my characters always do.