I unashamedly use alpha male characters in my novels. In some circles, it might be considered a type of trope, although I’m not sure I’d classify it that way. But my heroes are always alpha, and my heroines not so much so. Not that they are totally incapable, because I hate nothing more than a whiny, incapable woman. I just like the idea of an alpha male. There is an intensity there, a drive, a need for accomplishment, that appeals to me. And there’s a reason for that, as you will see below.
An alpha male is a decision-maker. He knows what he wants, and he knows how to get there. An alpha male can be a Type-A personality, and often times is. He is also a protector. His woman, when he finally realizes she is his woman, will want for nothing, and will not come to any harm. If she does come to harm, the alpha male’s guilt will be almost tangible.
Many times, an alpha male will be in charge of the relationship and the progression of the relationship. He will be the one pushing for physical intimacy, the one hovering and not being able to stay away. It can appear that the heroine is simply pushed/pulled into the relationship, overwhelmed by the power of the alpha male. She cannot resist. He is the guy who will save her, who will make everything right, who will fulfill all her dreams.
And nothing could be further from the truth. Part of the arc of an alpha-male story line is the hero realizing that their Type-A tendencies are easily moderated and softened by the heroine, who ultimately has complete control over the relationship. Her acquiescence is a control she exerts, in a conscious or unconscious way, to bring the hero to where she wants him to be. Put simply, she saves his life by easing the burden of the Type-A behavior, and bringing him to a realization that their relationship is more equal than he ever imagined. In the end, the heroine becomes the dominant, while the flummoxed and discomfited hero learns to adjust.
How do I know all of this? I am a Type-A. I scored a solid ESTJ on the Myers-Briggs even when I was in college, and confirmed in several re-takings over the years. Another personality assessment I recently took as part of my work, called a DiSC, confirmed the same thing. I am not particularly ambitious, but I’m a control freak in so many things that I sometimes find it difficult to relax. It is my way or the highway, and I can blow up pretty easily in the right situations. I spend much of my work day (at the day J.O.B.) alternately pushing projects forward, even if I have to do it myself (I do delegate, but certain things are never delegated, because, “only I can do them the way they need to be done”), or fretting over something I perceive as a missed deadline or project failure. This is the stress and reality of a Type-A.
When I create an alpha male hero, he is me. He is me in so many ways, and I know how to crack him open and lay him vulnerable, split from stem to stern. I know, because I know what it would take to make me vulnerable. Writing the alpha male is easy for me. Writing the heroine who is his counter is much harder. I don’t like a weak woman, so I have to balance the desire the alpha male has for the non-dominant woman, and then help them both switch places throughout the course of the book.
It is, for me, a win-win. Every time.
Are your heroes alpha males? Or do you go for a different type? Let me know in the comments!