“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.” Thucydides
We’ve talked a lot about alpha males here on the Prairies. When written correctly they are incredibly sexy. It’s essential to state there’s a difference between a fantasy alpha male and a real life alpha male. We’ll leave the dilemma of real life bad boys to the experts. I’m here to talk about the fantasy version and my penchant for the fictional rogues and bad boys. I love to read about them and to write about them.
But the last thing I want is for my hero to come across as boorish, or --shudder-- abusive. Alpha is spelt A L P H A not B R U T E. So, what can I do to create a hero who is fantasy worthy? Who embodies the qualities that would keep a reader turning the pages?
The Alpha Male Toolkit
Sense of Honor: If I were to pick one must have trait for my ideal alpha male it would be a sense of honor. A strictly held to Code of Conduct. If honor is synonymous with honesty, fairness, and integrity in one’s beliefs and actions than the alpha male must be honest, fair, and true to his beliefs. And, above all, he had better back it up with his actions.
Set of Core Values: These speak to what the hero wants. To his motivation. These could be, but are certainly not limited to, power, glory, freedom, or revenge. Ideally, one or more of his beliefs will have to change in order for him to have his happily ever after. Conflict, conflict, conflict.
Exemplary Hero Credentials: I might show him saving someone, or performing an act of heroism, for which he takes no credit early on in the story. I might create a situation revealing his ability to love and commit, even if he would shudder at the thought. An alpha hero needs to prove himself worthy of sympathy by the reader.
Respect for the Heroine as an Equal: They may butt heads. They may clash. They may disagree. They may not treat each other as inferior, weak, or stupid. They are partners. Boundaries must be set and often by the heroine. The only match for an alpha male is an alpha female.
Stamina and A Very Specific Skill Set: Yes, I do mean sex. This may be one of the areas subject to the largest level of poetic license in the romantic fantasy. The ability to make love all night long. Over and over again. Always putting the pleasure of the heroine before his own. But whatever the type of sex, it must be mutual. There is no “you know you want it” type thinking. No means no. Any alpha male worth reading knows this. Choice offered. Answer respected. No qualifiers.
Physical Strength: My idea of the perfect alpha male involves muscles, and lots of them. Frankly, I’m not so much about physical appearance, beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all that, but I’m a sucker for a six-pack. I recently read a wonderful book by Eloisa James called A Duke Of Her Own. It is the Duke of Villiers story. The Duke, who is not thought to be especially attractive, knows it’s his money that draws women to his bed. However, he is equally aware that his physique and his skill keep them there.
Natural Leadership Qualities: Who isn’t drawn to these? To the alpha in the pack who doesn’t second-guess? Who leads instinctively? Part of the fantasy remember? Confident and sexy. Smexy. (Apparently, this is a new word for smart and sexy.)
Feelings: He has them. He does not discuss them. Unless. Absolutely. Necessary. An alpha male needs a strong voice. He needs to use language and descriptors appropriate to an alpha male.
Courage: I think there’s a quote that goes something like: Courage is not the lack of fear, but rather it is taking action in the face of, and despite, fear. My idea of the alpha male psyche includes a healthy sense of fear accompanied by smart action in the face of it. Their physical strength must match their inner strength.
A Serious Flaw: Or two. Previously, and as part of her world-building series, Hayley has blogged about the Rules of Magic. I think it should apply to alpha males, too. Just as magic can’t do anything it pleases, neither can alpha males. You can’t just bandy about all that testosterone without limits and repercussions. They need a weakness. To be vulnerable. How else are you going to make him suffer? Have the heroine make him suffer? Create conflict? And more conflict?
“A man’s chief quality is courage.” Cicero
Are you drawn to alpha males? What qualities and traits would appear in your Alpha Male Toolkit? Do you have a favorite alpha male character?