by Laurie Schnebly Campbell
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.
Or IS there any difference?
Picture a guy who’s standing at the scene of a five-car pile-up, 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 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 backed up. Suddenly he’s a bossy jerk.
Yet he hasn’t changed his behavior. It’s only our interpretation of it that’s changed.
That’s part of what makes it tricky to write the kind of alpha hero who’s guaranteed to delight readers.
Well, there’s a fine line between a man who’s strong enough to withstand whatever the world can throw at him while never breaking down, and a man who’s incapable of expressing any emotion except anger.
There’s also 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.
And there’s another 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? Sorry!)
But readers who love books about alpha males don’t usually stop to think where that fine line should be. All they know is, they LIKE their romantic heroes to be strong, confident, vigorous, powerful. Suave or rugged is okay, CEO or firefighter is okay, fighter jet or Harley is okay, but aside from those little details there’s not a whole lot of 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?
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 like” -- drat it, he’s no longer quite such a thrilling prize.
He’s more of a regular guy...the kind most readers wish would remember to pick up the drycleaning in everyday life. So where’s the romantic excitement in THAT?
Alpha males are 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?
It helps to look at what makes each alpha unique. We already know these aren’t cookie-cutter characters, but their differences go beyond Harley vs fighter jet, suave or rugged, firefighter or CEO.
There are other elements to consider, including their origins and their pack and their beta counterpart and their environment and their personality type, which we’ll do next month in my “Alpha Males From Abe To Zeus” class.
And here’s where your opinion on two issues comes in. (In fact, I might want to quote you on these, 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? Admirable traits, annoying traits, some of each are fine!
Second question: Have you written any alpha heroes -- and if so, what did you like most and least about the most recent one?
I’d love to get your thoughts on this...and by the way, if you live with an alpha male in real life (rather than on the page where you can just set him aside any time he gets too difficult), 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.
What are your answers to the two questions above? Do you like reading books with alpha males? Please tell us about it in the comments section!
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Laurie Schnebly Campbell has been intrigued with alpha males ever since she heard that they’re the ones who are always breaking dishes. (Suddenly her husband looked less clumsy, and more sexy!) She’s teaching a class on why, whether, and how to write irresistible alpha males, from November 2-13 at http://heartsthroughhistory.com/workshops/alpha-males.
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