If you’re a romance reader, then you’re like me – you like a good alpha male. But what is it about these guys that we love so much?
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As a reader, I can tell you that I personally look for a guy who I want to be in charge. Someone who has integrity, is a natural leader, knows what he wants, but also wants the best for those he leads. But personally, I also want an alpha male who is completely absorbed by the female lead… who knows her inside and out because he pays attention. Who puts her needs first, always. He also needs to develop over the course of the book into someone better because she makes him better.
As a writer, let me tell you… it’s a fine line to walk because an alpha male has traits that walk the line between great guy, total jerk, and wimp. Here’s just a few ways I’ve run into this…
Leader vs. Dictator
A strong leader often has to demand results, or tell people what to do when they’re not sure of his choice (sometimes even when he’s not sure). But it’s very easy to go toward the dictator side where the alpha male rules with an iron fist. The trick here is to write an alpha who is confident yet approachable. Brilliant yet flexible enough to listen to others. But still knows when to lay down the law. Fine line, right?
Strong vs. Domineering
We want a man who can win in a fight, defend his people, defend his lover, and save the day. But no one wants to be forced into anything – either by physically or mentally. So we writers walk this line by making our alphas morally strong as well – give them people to protect, a higher cause to fight for, and a lover to watch over in a caring way.
In Love vs. Stalker
There is nothing sexier than being wanted. And an alpha male who just can’t look away, walk away, breath when he’s away from his love is very sexy. But it’s also easy to cross over to stalker. The only way I’ve found that helps me look for when I’ve crossed this line as a writer is to imagine how I’d feel if that same behavior was coming from someone who the female lead really doesn’t want rather than her alpha. Puts a different spin on it.
Supportive vs. Total Wimp
We want our man strong, but we also want them sensitive and supportive – especially in relation to his love. However, it’s very easy to make him so wimpy that she does all the fighting both for their relationship and against their enemies. Not sexy, right? I find it helps to make the supportive piece be a part of the alpha’s character arc. Basically it’s a trait that he discovers as his relationship with the heroine progresses and love changes him into someone with rough edges just slightly smoothed down.
What do you think? What are some of your favorite characteristics of the alpha male? What fine lines do those features walk where, if crossed, leaves you cold?