Alpha males sell books.
No matter what else they might be good at -- and we’ve all seen them be good at LOTS of things! -- they’re fabulous at selling books. But that doesn’t mean every reader, much less every writer, adores those classic alpha males. For one thing, we have a hard time defining exactly what an alpha male IS. I’m going to ask your opinion, down below, but first let’s look at what we love about these guys...and why we resent them. Alpha males take command, right? Which can be wonderfully attractive -- and which can also be downright annoying. What makes the difference? Or IS there any difference?
Cool vs Not-So
Picture a guy who’s standing at the scene of a disastrous five-car collision, telling everyone what to do. “You! Back up the van. You! Get that bike out of the way. You! Move your vehicle toward the curb.” He’s a laudable hero, managing to accomplish whatever needs taking care of and getting everyone around him to do what he says.
But now picture that same guy giving those same orders in a grocery store parking lot where nobody’s hurt; there are just a lot of cars milling around. Suddenly he’s a bossy jerk. Yet he hasn’t changed his behavior. It’s only our interpretation of his behavior that’s changed. Which is part of why it’s so tricky to write the kind of alpha hero who’s guaranteed to delight readers.
What else makes it tricky? Well, let’s see:
* There’s a fine line between a man who’s powerful enough to stand strong against whatever the world throws at him while never breaking down, and a man who’s incapable of expressing any emotion except anger.
* There’s a fine line between a man who’s all about protecting what’s his, including the woman he loves, and a man who views that woman as his possession.
* There’s a fine line between a man who’s so incredibly sexy that every woman in the room is dazzled by his sizzling presence, and a man who’s willing to share that smoldering sexuality with every woman in the room.
How much is too much alpha? How little is too little? (Okay, did everyone else’s mind just go to the same place mine did? Uh, never mind.) Back to the fine line -- women who love reading about alpha males don’t usually stop to think where that line should be drawn.
All they know is, they LIKE their romantic heroes strong, courageous, forceful, vigorous, confident. Suave or rugged is okay, millionaire or firefighter is okay, battered Harley or magnificent steed is okay, but aside from those little details there’s not a whole lot of room for compromise.
With alphas, there’s NEVER much room for compromise. And that’s exactly what makes them so easy to resent. How come they always get to call the shots? How come they can attract any woman they want just by crooking their little finger? How come they don’t have to deal with the things all the rest of us do? Oh, but wait! Once this alpha hero falls in love with the heroine, he’ll have to change his ways. Right?
Alphas Changed By Love
Er. Well... That’s tricky, too. Because if suddenly this rip-roaring testosterone-driven leader of the pack is murmuring, “Yes, dear, I’ll pick up the drycleaning and be home for dinner whenever you say” -- drat it, he’s no longer quite such a thrilling prize. He’s more of a regular guy...the kind most readers experience in everyday life. So where’s the romantic excitement in THAT? You see the dilemma?
Genuine alpha males can be as tough to write as they are to live with -- and yet they’re so attractive, we can’t just throw them out of our pages! How do we get around that? Here’s where your opinion comes in. Two questions, and I’d love to hear what other writers and readers think. (I’d also love to quote you in my “Alpha Males From Abe To Zeus” class next month, so please let me know if that’s NOT okay.)
First question: Do you know any alphas in real life -- and if so, what are they like?
Second question: Have you written any alpha heroes -- and if so, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
I’m eager to get your thoughts on this...and by the way, if you live with an alpha male in real life OR in fiction, you have both my admiration and my envy!
Laurie, betting everyone here would appreciate tips on How To Live With An Alpha from those who’ve figured out the techniques