Why is Bad so Sexy?
by Jordan Dane

I love the hero and heroine in NO ONE LEFT TO TELL--Christian Delacorte and Raven MacKenzie. With her being the detective and him being the lead suspect, things can't get any worse. For them, breaking the ice comes with an intimate frisk--all very professional and in the line of duty, of course.

But for this article, I'd like to talk about one of my bad guys.

I'll admit up front that people in my books sometimes get away with murder. I'm a fan of morally challenged anti-heroes and occasionally my villains do the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

Case in point, Nicholas “Nicky” Charboneau is a crime boss in NO ONE LEFT TO TELL. I pictured him as a sexy Tony Soprano who can order someone killed with remorseless ease yet maintain a fierce loyalty for people he loves. His dark humored sidekick is the beautiful and exotic Jasmine Lee--Nicky's bodyguard, lover, and assassin (when it suits him). They are both fascinated by death and they love their work.

A match made in heaven...in my world.

Nicky is the epitome of the powerful bad boy in designer threads with expensive and deviant tastes. And Jasmine is intensely devoted to her employer and secretly in love with him. As you might have guessed, these two are not the hero and heroine in my story--quite the contrary--yet they have seduced me from the start.

NO ONE LEFT TO TELL sets the stage for Nicky's story of a misguided vengeance infused with his twisted brand of love and loyalty--the driver behind the plot. In the sequel, NO ONE LIVES FOREVER, everything Nicky values is at risk after he's kidnapped, forcing him to examine his life's choices in the harsh light of what he has become.

Villains are the heroes in their own story. For me, I want to capture the depth of every character, including my bad guys. If I happen to fall in love with them along the way, that makes the story richer for me. I hope my readers will agree.

I love depicting characters that aren't clearly black and white, good or bad. I like to bend a reader's traditional sense of morality by creating characters with pliable ethics and not easily defined in a conventional sense.

Showcasing characters in varying degrees of redemption is my thing. Some deserve sympathy or forgiveness while others may be a total waste of skin. Good men handicapped by their own personality flaws intrigue me.

A fine line can separate a hero from a villain in my books. As in life, not everything is black or white. I like my stories and my characters to reflect the gray in between. So, in NO ONE LEFT TO TELL and its sequel NO ONE LIVES FOREVER, welcome to Nicky and Jasmine's world where ethics and morality are only handicaps.

Who are some of your favorite anti-heroes or villains on TV or in the movies? And why do you like them so much?

To stimulate the conversation, I'm offering my latest release NO ONE LEFT TO TELL to a few participants. Winners will be picked at random by your comments so if you're logged in with a valid email addy, you'll be able to play along and maybe win. Thanks for stopping by today.


Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Good morning! My husband and I have been watching Dexter, the TV show based on a book of fiction about a crime scene blood analyst who happens to be a serial killer who targets and hunts serial killers. (The man has come up with a whole new application for Glad Wrap. Yikes!) The show was particularly powerful this week and more than a little disturbing, but well acted. My husband and I are strangely addicted to it.

Anyone else watch this show? I find it an interesting character study. And that might worry Lucia. LOL

10:09 AM  

Anonymous JennieB said:

Morning, darlin'. I have to say, I don't watch much TV, and the whole idea of Dexter bothers me. Still, I have had my share of crushes on literary bad-boy heroes and anti-heroes through the years, all the way back to Rupert of Hentzau. Stephanie Plum's Ranger comes to mind, as well as Joe Morelli, before he became too domesticated. Eve Dallas's/JD Robb's Roarke. Elizabeth Peters's John Tregarth and Sethos. Several of my own fictional creations fall into this category, too, although in my WIPs - the renovator series - the heros are always nice and the bad guys are always bad, and never the twain shall meet. It's a cozy-series, you know. ;-)

10:36 AM  

Blogger Kathy Bacus said:

Good morning, Jordan! Wonderful article! I realized several things about myself as I read it. One: You CAN teach an old dog new tricks! Back when I was a law enforcement officer, the psychology of a crime—what about that person, their experiences, their genetic legacy (the old ‘nature vs. nurture argument) led them to commit a certain crime was, for the most part, irrelevant to me. I didn’t have to care why they did what they did. It wasn’t crucial to my job performance to care. Two: This dichotomy changed when I became a storyteller. As an author, I have to care about these things. I have to know my characters intimately—what made them the person they have become and, even more importantly for story purposes, what is most likely to change them in significant ways. I need to be reminded that even really bad dudes have mothers and fathers and grandmas and sisters and nieces and nephews—and the capacity to feel love, loyalty, patriotism and all the emotions we associate with our heroes.

My favorite example of an anti-hero? The hitman ‘Quarry’ from a series of early books by Max Allan Collins. Collins does a brilliant job of humanizing this cold-blooded professional killer. I hear there may be a movie in the works! Can't wait to see how they cast Quarry!

And now I must go work on my own villains! Congrats on the new release, Jordan! Can’t wait to read it!

~Kathy Bacus~

10:39 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

How cool is this. Today I am blogging on the parallels between Galaxy Quest and writing. I mention the archetype of the reluctant hero, who is in fact often an anti hero.

The difference being the anti hero straddles the line between good and bad where the reluctant hero is more white than gray. The reluctant hero blends in the with the crowd where your anti hero cannot possibly hide his swagger.

I think the new Bond with Daniel Craig is an anti hero.

Great discussion. And I already have your book. Got it Monday at King Sooper in Denver.

10:46 AM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Jennie--Great to see you here. Can't wait to read your warm & fuzzy mystery & renovation book. And I LOVE Ranger. Great series but I always wanted to know what was in Ranger's head. Didn't you? But what a sexy guy. Yowser! And Roarke is a winner too. You've got some great examples. Thanks for playing along. :)

11:00 AM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Hey there Kathy--Thanks for your great comment. And what a good analogy with your life's experiences in law enforcement. You've got me thinking too. And I'll have to check out Quarry--what a great name. Lawrence Block did a wonderful series about Keller, a hitman going through a mid-life crisis but still very good at his work. Block can make a reader laugh as quickly as he could make them drop their jaw in shock with the poignancy of his writing and the story line. He never judges Keller, only humanizes him in a subtle way to draw the reader in. I can definitely see this type of character on cable TV but I'm not sure how the average viewer would take it...and what it would say about our society if the show was a hit (so to speak).

11:09 AM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Galaxy Quest--LOL What a funny movie. Being an old Star Trek fan, it cracked me up.

This reminds me of how I got myself out of a plot stumbling block after watching A Christian Slater movie on skateboarding called Gleaning the Cube. The six degrees of Christian Slater and plotting solutions.

And I love your Daniel Craig example. Someone recently blogged about my hero Diego Galvan in NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM and compared him to Daniel Craig's James Bond--a guy who could be afraid and get his ass kicked yet still do that job. I told the blogger that I loved that comparison. I loved the way the Bond series humanized Craig and made him a less sophisticated and perfect Bond. A real man. It might bring me back to watching the series again. And what's not to like about Daniel Craig? yum!

11:15 AM  

Blogger joemedic said:

Our hero's often need to do things that are socially, and morally difficult. As an example, I write in the suspense/mystery genre and I know that I wouldn't really like to hang out with the characters that I write about as some of them have to stack bodies three deep--things that would get them thrown in jail in a heartbeat in real life.

This is the cool thing about fiction--we can explore issues through our characters that are challenging, and use them as a foil for some of the smaller things we 'real' people have to deal with each day.

Bad, good, in between, a little of both or even a lot of both, people are gray in their lives, and our characters should be.

No matter the moral or ethical standing of the character, the best characters are the ones that stay with me long after I've finished the novel. When I find a great book, I always buy multiple copies as I know I will be rereading it so often that I'll wear the covers off!

11:24 AM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Great comment, Joe. And thanks for sharing.

With all the violence in the world, I often wonder why I chose to read and write crime fiction, but I think it's because I can control the world I create. I like to think my stories are as much character driven as they are about the twists and turns of the plot. And as in real life, there is a price to pay for murder and violence--the ripple effect on the water that spirals out to touch others.

So my cast of characters have varying degrees of redemption (like real life) by design. And I pick & choose who pays and who doesn't, but it all boils down to torturing my characters...on paper. Bwaa Haaa HAAAA!

11:36 AM  

Anonymous rebecca cantrell said:

I guess you are in touch with your inner bad girl, you character torturer! Me, I like bad guys in books because there is a chance for redemption for them. The good guys have no place to go but down, but in your first book we were all rooting for Diego to cross over to the good side. In my second book (not coming out for two years!), I had a bad guy who surprised me at the last minute by turning all noble on me after being creepy for two straight books. And everyone who has read it immediately fell in love with the guy, even though I had worked so hard to make him odious for so long. Noble self sacrifice from a bad guy gets 'em every time. Think Rick in Casablanca. Nobody was that moved when Victor Lazslo was unselfish, but Rick...That's Bogey for ya.

3:07 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Hey Beckster--Glad you stopped by. Aloha.

I find it interesting that you "turned" your bad guy. I like that too. It reminds me of Christian on Nip/Tuck, the womanizing plastic surgeon who once traded his girlfriend for a sports car. I laughed aloud at some of his shenanigans, but when he shed a tear, I was there wanting to mother him. Let's face it. Women are nurturers and want to fix things.

And Bogey is classic bad boy. Love him.

3:51 PM  

Blogger Jane said:

I think my favorite anti-hero is Dirty Harry, a cop who violates the law to get the bad guys. As an audience, we cheer him on, but we might not condone his methods.

3:55 PM  

Blogger Allie Hollister said:

I think the bad guy is such a turn on because we always want to fix things, or people. We think we can fix this guy, make him realize that even though the money is good, being a hitman is very bad. Also we see what a person is capable of doing, and wonder if we have it in us too. When I'm brainstorming I'm surprised at the sick things my husband comes up with. I didn't know I'd married a closet bad guy. lol
By the way Jordan, loved No One Heard Her Scream, and I'm ready to start No One Left To Tell.

3:56 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

In my second book TELL, I introduced my woman assassin Jasmine Lee. She is exotic and beautiful with the name of a flower yet she racks up a body count in that book--and all with a dark sense of humor and justice. I wanted to understand someone like this and in my next book FOREVER, she is more in the limelight, working alongside my hero Christian Delacorte to find his kidnapped father, a Chicago crime boss.

I find that writing characters like this, it's a challenge I love as a writer. I love creating them to see how they would walk the fine line between good and evil--and finding different ways to make the reader tolerate or fall in love with them.

I'm not sure what this says of me, but I do like the message that we can't all be judged by our covers.

4:03 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Hey Allie--Thanks for stopping by. And I think I like your husband. Mine is my best friend but that doesn't stop us from plotting to kill people over eggs and coffee. Seriously.

What you said struck a chord with me--that if anyone can change, then so can we. Wow! Who knew there'd be redemption in the dark side? Thanks for the thought provoking comment. Kudos!

And thanks for supporting a new author. I truly appreciate it.

4:10 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Jey Jane--I love Dirty Harry and what's not to like about Clint Eastwood. The end justifies the means in Harry Callaghan's world because bad guys don't have a code and play without rules--but they don't play half as dirty as Harry. I still picture him holding that harpoon gun and nailing that one bad guy on that boat. Yikes!

Bruce Willis and his Die Hard movies are like this too. You want him to kill the bad buys in the worst possible way. He doles out justice with a heavy hand.

I think that today, we see injustice all the time and people getting away with murder--getting off on a technicality. It feels right to have a vigilante approach at times--especially when the bad guy flaunts his superiority.

And there's appeal in one man standing alone to face an army. It allows us to believe that one man or woman can make a difference.

4:25 PM  

Anonymous Toni Blake said:

I ADORE Dexter - and feel the same sense of addiction that you do. For me, much of this has to do with being a writer - I'm interested in the character study, and in figuring out how they make us like and root for this guy who falls in the "baddest of the bad guys" category. I can see many of the techniques they've used - because I use them myself in my own books ; )

Anyway, just wanted to chime in and say there's another Dexter fan here : )

As for the general question, why is bad sexy? - I think women love the fantasy of taming the bad boy, and you can't tame him unless he starts out bad ; )

5:06 PM  

Blogger Terry Odell said:

Hi, Jordan.
I was interviewing some homicide cops for my last novel (ok, I was buying them beer, but they were talking and answering questions) and they recommended Dexter as a way of showing how even 'bad guys' can be spun positively. DH and I rented them all from Netflix and found them compelling, especially since we got to watch them back to back.

I just got your two books today and can't wait to start reading.

5:15 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Hey Toni---Thanks for stopping by. If they had given Dexter a dog, his pesky idiosyncracy of killing people might have been overlooked.

5:20 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Hey Terry--Thanks for popping in and for buying my books. You're the best! And I like your idea of research over a beer.

What's been great about Dexter lately is that he makes decisions to follow his step-father Harry's code to kill only those that deserve his "attention". It's not just Harry's memory pulling his strings now. And the scene with what he did to his newfound brother was really chilling---literally. And well-acted. The episode this week left my husband and I with our mouths open. Wow!

5:28 PM  

Blogger Terry Odell said:

I taped the first episode to see how broadcast television would handle the intensity of the show, but somehow, we never got around to watching it for comparison. Considering how many F-bombs are dropped, not to mention all the other gory stuff, I wondered how it would play out on regular tv.

I can't wait for season 2 to come out at Netflix.

5:32 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

You know, Terry--I never thought of that--the censoring. Regular TV also completely ripped the heart out of Sex and the City so I can imagine it has an impact on old Dex. But the show is still shocking.

And I have to say that I have this love hate thing for Dexter's half-sister. She's such a dork and so very stupid but she's perfect for that role. Can't explain it. Does anyone else feel that way about her?

5:38 PM  

Anonymous Toni Blake said:

I have mixed emotions about Dexter's sister. I like her because she feels real, like someone you'd immediately feel at ease with if you met her. But she seems too easily caught up in emotion to be a good cop to me - yet they portray her as an up-and-comer in the force.

To me, the sole thing that makes Dexter likable is that we see him beginning ot develop emotions for people like Debra and Rita, whereas at the beginning of the series, he claimed he didn't feel anything for anyone. If, at the end of the season, he still hadn't felt anything, I would still find him a WAY interesting dude, but I wouldn't root for him. I actually think it would have been interesting to toy with the brother thing more - for Dexter to spend more time entertaining the appeal of having someone else in the world who understands him. But I think, realistically, if Dexter HAD spent very much time thinking about letting Rudy live that it would have risked people not liking him anymore.

Sorry to babble on so, but I do like to anaylyze : )

6:28 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Actually Toni--You make some GREAT points. I love your comment. And I agree his brother might have been a bad influence on him (get this, bad influence on the serial killer) but I see your point. Dex has plenty of pitfalls lying in wait for him in the future to keep this show interesting for along while. I liked the way they introduced the brother, putting Dex under the microscope by someone else, but they had a limited plot with that--especially if they let him get away.

And I find it interesting that Dexter is making himself a family--even tho he may not realize it. I think they are setting him up for another major fall but the sky is the limit on potential scenarios.

Love it.

6:46 PM  

Blogger Toni Anderson said:

Hello there :) I really like anti-heroes :)
I like Dexter, although I find it disturbing. I really like Jason Bourne in the movies (obviously his character is being redeemed), and I love Karen Marie Moning's Jericho Barrons. The world isn't black and white, and I much prefer seeing how people cope with making the wrong choices. Or by trying to be better people when it counts. Very interesting article, Jordan.

7:43 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Thanks for dropping by, Toni. I'm drawn to imperfection in characters (good and bad). And I like to paint myself into a corner so that it's not easy to make them likeable or redeemable. It's a writer's challenge that I seek to keep things interesting for me.

8:16 PM  

Blogger Frank said:

Hi, Jordan, I haven't been watching too much TV lately (but it sounds like I'm missing some really good stuff! Might have to set the TiVo!)

I do like the bad boy/anti-hero type you describe--there's a thrill with someone who's less than perfect yet doing some things that are somehow amazing or just plain good. I've enjoyed the main character on House, who is nothing like a doctor I might want treating me in reality, but he's a hoot to watch (and mm... Hugh Laurie... ;))

8:34 AM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Hello Frank--Thanks for taking the time to comment.

I think that if I were dying of some inexplicable disease I'd want House working on me. His bedside manner would be a distraction from the mutant cells attacking my body--kind of like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. It feels so good when you stop.

8:54 AM  

Blogger Laurie said:

Hi Jordan! I think all my favourite "bad boys" have been mentioned, except possibly Johnny Depp in "Once Upon a Time In Mexico" where he played a perverse CIA/hit man. And of course, David Morse's character in "Taxi" where he played an ex-cop/dirty cop who had to drive a cab to pay his alimony.

But back to your original question, why is "bad" sexy...I think we love these anti-heroes in fiction (and in real life sometimes) because they open the door to our *own* "bad", sexy, side of ourselves and allow us the freedom to fantasize about being that way. (or acting that way, if your real life bad boy's riding a Harley, lol!

I gave up on Dexter because although the premise is very interesting, I've worked in law enforcement too. I have to say that while the writers have "turned theory upside down", in real life it doesn't work that way. Serial killers are either loners or have a partner who's a parasite, has a lower IQ than the killer, but is necessary to the killer because s/he worships (really) the killer and backs up his kills. I watched a few episodes and thought his having a cop for a sister was just a symptom of the lack of research the writers did for the show. If she was any kind of cop at all, she'd be starting to recognize his patterns and behaviour. Unless she's deep, deep, in denial. It just seemed like a "gimmick" to the plot to me. Having that one cop being the only guy who's getting bad vibes off Dexter at least made it somewhat realistic.

Just my .02 cents, and now I'll bow out before all you Dexter fans start throwing tomatoes! :)

3:58 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Hey Laurie--Yeah, I saw those things in Dexter too and almost quit watching, mainly because he functioned too well in his chosen environment of law enforcement. And one of the reasons his sister gets to me is that she can't see through him. And she went from too stupid to live to brilliant with her rise in the dept lately. But somewhere I suspended my disbelief and rolled with it, probably for other reasons. So no tomato throwing here.

And Johnny Depp is brilliant in anything he takes on. I also loved David Morse's taxi ex-cop too. He became a vigilante, still doing his version of a cop thing.

Plus I liked what you said about fantasizing what it would be like to be "naughty". There's a liberating truth in what you say, for sure.

4:18 PM  

Anonymous JennieB said:

I still think the reason my agent signed me is because my bad-boy hero rides a Harley, and so does her husband. (My agent's husband, that is. Instant attraction right there!)

5:06 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Whatever works, Jenn!!

Personally, I'm convinced that I had to sacrifice a body part to write my debut book. Not a move I'd recommend. But in hindsight, I think dating someone with a Harley would have been the way to go.

5:52 PM  

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