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  1. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    How 'alpha' does an alpha male have to be?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by madhoca, Jul 5, 2010.

    Well, I'm getting to the editing stage of my historical romance (only 2 months late, ho hum) and I'm worried that my alpha male isn't 'alpha' enough. Maybe he needs fine-tuning...or perhaps firing-up...

    My main man in real life is fairly charismatic and reasonably goodlooking, as well as being quite an unfaithful a**hole in his younger days. So, I guess I get kind of fed up with this type being seen as the HERO in romantic novels. These kind of totally self-confident guys are just TOO full of themselves sometimes. (Wow, twelve years and the anger is right there still...)

    But then, I guess I'm going round in a circle here. Obviously, I find the type attractive, curse it--but it's the flaws that make the guy in my story interesting. Also, not everything is under his control. He doesn't always get what he wants.

    But do these little flaws become apparent over the years, so that I shouldn't have my heroine notice them at first? Does it lessen my hero's attraction and make him less alpha if he doesn't always try to force things to be the way he wants? Am I making him too wimpy if I have him think about letting down people (he's engaged to another girl although it was more a marriage of convenience he was wanting, various crises have delayed the wedding for three years, then he meets another girl. He doesn't want either of them to suffer social disgrace...)
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Guys in romances who are 100% alpha male tend to be possessive, tell their gfs what to do all the time etc....it irks me, to be honest...but it depends on your character. Obviously if you want to make a likeable and sympathetic character, don't make him a jerk, but if you're making a villain, then he shouldn't care about other people.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, it's the fine line between making him dominant or turning him into a jerk that's hard...
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bear in mind that an 'alpha' male in any species including human, wouldn't just dominate a single female, but would be dominant in all areas, with all he comes in contact with... which often results in fierce and violent defense of his position and to retain 'possession' of his female/s...
     
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, my impression is that in this case the concept of Alfa / non-Alfa hurts your thinking and analyse of something more complex. And that you either decide to therapy write or focus on writing good fiction inspired by you real life experiences of course.

    If your heroine should notice his flaws, i think usually happens by that you see it and downplay it and make excuses for it. That would be the angle I would go for.
     
  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You say that it's the fine line between making him dominant and making him a jerk--but what do you mean by dominant?

    If he's dominant in any way that asserts a manner of authority over his girlfriend/wife, he's a jerk. End of story. A relationship between two peers where there's an imbalance of power, or one of them controls the other, is (to me) unacceptable. Hence the reason why I can't stand Twilight because of Bella. :)

    Really though, either he's likeable or not--which are you trying to portray him as?
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ He has to be irresistible... I'm quite gone on him myself, actually, but my subconscious wants to warn the heroine 'No! He's too much to handle!'

    But I won't. She can get herself out of it later, when she's living happily ever after...

    Something tells me I'm being waaaay too cynical about all this...

    You have a good point, Maia, about making him in control of the other areas of his life as well. I guess I'll concentrate on showing him as a natural leader who takes charge, solves issues intelligently and has people look up to him, not just a macho dominant pig.
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This is what I was thinking too.

    Unless by alpha male you are meaning someone who is very assertive. Then again those are very similar things..
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    an alpha male is the one that is recognized by all in his group as the leader and is thus treated with due deference by all but a male who may be up to challenging him for the position...

    so i think what you had in mind was really just a controlling macho type who only wants to dominate a 2-party relationship, mad... and not an actual 'alpha male'...
     
  10. Oscar Rat
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    Oscar Rat Member

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    I don't read or write many romance stories, much less novels. So don't take me too seriously, he-he.

    In any novel, though, you should probably start out with an exaggeration, one way or the other. Then, as it progresses, have him slowly change. At each step, give him a reason.

    Maybe he starts out as an alpha bully, strutting around, polishing his guns, farting up a storm, and the rest.

    Then, he begins having doubts about his masculinity. Maybe one of his best friends turns out to be gay. He might think, "And I act just like Tommy. Am I hiding something from myself?"

    Later, he might be accosted by a mugger, finding himself frozen with fear.

    In such a case, a few little things might change him. I'm not talking about changing your storyline, simply inserting a few such episodes in the right place.

    Maybe she loves him more, or less, because of the changes, and maybe not. That's up to you.

    Oscar Rat
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think it depends on what kind of story you're writing. If this is a simple wish-fulfillment story, then he can be as alpha and perfect and flawless and effortlessly dashing as you want.

    If your story is more realistic, then he has flaws and loses sometimes and things don't always work out the way he wants, and over time he becomes maybe more hard-bitten, more human, less Errol Flynn in Robin Hood and more Humphrey Bogart in African Queen. Or something like that.

    The kind of story you're writing determines the kind of character he'll be. And vice versa, of course ...
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^That's true. Thanks for the thoughts, everyone.
     
  13. Jane Beryl
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    Jane Beryl Member

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    You don't start out with an exaggeration in novels unless they are a static character. Normally, what I see happening is the main character doesn't understand the other and you get glimpses of them until the final exposition and climax. Just think of it this way, we never knew who Mr. Darcy was at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice. At first, he was a pompous character. It wasn't true though, while certain parts of him may have changed (like he tried to be more sociable), overall it was really Elizabeth's perspective that gained larger grounds. This also could be applied in Harry Potter with his perspective on Draco Malfoy, and other good stories.

    So the question is not, "How Alpha should he be?" It should be, "how Alpha do you want him to be?"
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    One question that I haven't asked yet is: Why does he need to be alpha? What function does that serve in the story? That might help answer the question.
     
  15. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the romantic fiction genre I'm writing, the hero is always supposed to be an 'alpha' type...I think it even mentions this in the publisher's guidelines. The question was, these days, just how 'alpha' do readers like/expect him to be? I was wondering how liberal the interpretation can be.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    for the answer to that, you need to read what that publisher publishes... because it's not a matter of what readers like/expect, but only of what the publisher wants...
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, I see. I'm feeling the urge to argue against the alpha romantic hero, because it is, to me, an incredibly annoying and unattractive character type, and the opposite of romantic, but if you're stuck with a guideline, I suppose that would be counterproductive. :)

    Maybe read a big stack of books by leading writers in the genre? I realize that's really time-consuming, but I could see it as the only way to really get the nuances.
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you are both right in saying the best way to get a grip on this is by checking out the books they publish carefully. The guidelines are there, but they are vague, and there is a surprising variation on just how macho the hero is. Certain qualities he always has are:
    - leadership
    - decisiveness
    -single-mindedness
    - charisma or skill of some sort
    So really it's up to the writer to show these qualities to a greater or lesser degree. I think the publisher tries to follow the trend of what its readers like, rather than make the readers accept a particular type, since over the last 20yrs the heroes have been changing a bit to go with the times.
     

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