Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Creating To-Die-For Alpha Heroes (Who aren't jerks!) by Debra Glass



We all want a strong, sexy hero who rides up on the white horse and sweeps the heroine off her feet with stunning looks and clever banter. He's the man who won't take no for an answer and who's rakish charm whittles down the heroine's defenses.

But where do such rakes stop being jerks and start being heroes?

There is a fine line between the two and a romance author must tread carefully.

What is an Alpha Male? Alpha males are secure men who are genuinely confident, outgoing, friendly, and intelligent. They are the socially powerful leaders and are physically attractive. Alpha males have their egos in balance. They are confident and at the same time, humble.

In a romance novel, these alpha males, despite their shadow sides, have only heroic intentions.
According to Steven Smith, in his book, Egonomics, he writes, "When we move just right or left of center, we get false confidence, and ego manages us rather than the other way around. As a result, our strengths morph into counterfeit weaknesses, like someone who’s passionate now becomes overzealous, or if we’re strong-willed, now we become inflexible. We think it’s the same thing, but it’s not and everyone around us notices the difference."

Jerks, on the other hand, tend to see themselves in a positive light and others in a negative light. Jerks put out a sense of self-confidence to the world, which attracts women to them, however, a jerk's self-confidence is a ruse to hide insecurities.

A secure woman will not tolerate a jerk's behavior for long, therefore jerks gravitate toward anxious, insecure women. Jerks find these women easy to dominate which increases their warped sense of self-esteem.

A true alpha male is a benevolent man whom others look up to. He is caring and dominant without being overbearing. Craig Bruce, in his article, Alpha Males, Nice Guys, and Jerks, writes, "The jerk is an abusive head-case who socializes in order to abuse people."

He further defines the jerk's relationships as this: "The relationship is guided by the Principle of Least Interest: the person who is the least interested in the relationship gets to dictate the terms of the relationship. Result: he treats her like shit. He takes advantage of her, dominates and controls her. He sees problems in the relationship as being her fault, and if she's very lucky, she even gets to be physically abused."

Jerks actually suffer from a personality disorder known as Narcissism. Narcissists are not capable of the character growth required for a romance hero.


One of the greatest romance heroes ever written was Rhett Butler who was definitely an alpha male. Why did we love him? Because beneath that cool exterior and those barbed quips, he saw Scarlett for what she was and loved her for it. Even admired her for it. He was a benevolent hero who gained the respect of others for his behind the scenes actions. He was confident and handsome, the consummate gentleman who knew what he wanted and went after it but always in a way that was above board.

Writing alpha males is a difficult task but with a little understanding of what a real alpha male is, we authors can continue creating those to-die-for heroes!


Debra Glass' paranormal romance, Gatekeeper, is the first of her Phantom Lovers series published by Ellora's Cave.
Gatekeeper's hero, Benton Smith, is an old world hero who is definitely an alpha male who is not above a little seduction when needed!

1 comment:

Ciana Stone said...

Great topic Debra! To me, an Alpha male is a man who never considers his self-assuredness, appeal and strength. It is simply part of his nature. Just as it's natural for him to be a leader, yet also value the opinions of others. And he's a man who puts a high value on the woman in his life.

I so agree with you. Reading about an Alpha male who is merely a cheap copy - all brawn and bluster masquerading as Alpha just leaves me cold. But when a writer captures the true nature then WOW, I'm hooked.

Again, fantastic topic!