by Donna Hatch
I took a class at a national writers conference called the Alpha Male, taught by an author named Jane Porter. With a name like that, she couldn’t help but love Tarzan, or rather, his type: the ultimate Alpha Male.
She taught some great tips I’d like to pass along, much of this post comes directly from my notes from her class. There are, of course, alpha males who are villains, but I will focus only on the alpha heroes, the good guys of the story.
The Alpha Hero is Top Dog
In a wolf pack, there is always only one Alpha Male. In Disney’s cartoon version of Tarzan, when Kerchek was wounded, Tarzan jumped in to protect the family and Kerchek from the leopard, Sabore, who was trying to harm them. He later takes over that role as the leader of the family.
He’s usually bigger, stronger, more focused and more self-sufficient.
He’s also sometimes wounded, either in body or heart because he’s often impacted by external change, often tragic.
He is often alone. Think of the classic cowboy who rides into town, rights a wrong, and rides off into the sunset. There isn’t much room at the top, and he keeps his emotions carefully locked away.
They are referred to as the strong, silent type. Men typically talk less than women, with a few notable exceptions, but the Alpha Male will let his actions speak for him.
He cares little for public opinion because he has his own internal sense of justice, or code of honor. He may fall sometimes, but he will never be broken.
The Alpha Hero Never Runs from a Fight
He’s extremely driven to right injustice and to protect those he loves, or those over whom he has stewardship. He’s the one who would say “I couldn’t not act.”
They never worry about dying, they assume they will, but they will fight as long as they live.
They often cannot explain their motives and typically don’t care to discuss them even if they understand them.
The alpha male will never leave someone in peril. Or if they feel they should leave (against their better judgment, it will tear them up and they will either ‘come to their senses’ and return, or avenge themselves in some way.)
The Alpha Hero Has Tremendous Emotional Appeal
The closer someone gets to what, or who, the alpha hero cherishes, the more guarded he becomes. That which makes him strong, makes him weak, too. That’s why they are so fiercely protective of the women, children, families they love. They often view them as their vulnerable spot, and worry that their enemies will strike at them by harming their loved ones.
This is why the alpha hero appeal so much to women; they are an emotional fantasy. Women want to be respected, cherished, protected. The Alpha Hero can’t find the haven he wants without his heroine. His emotions are locked up until he meets her. She saves him from loneliness and despair, and she provides comfort. He would never abandon his mate, even if he must temporarily move physically away.
The Alpha Hero is a Sophisticated Lover
Think James Bond. They are cool, suave, have tremendous control and confidence and are larger than life. He would never use brute force or domination. He has a keen wit and is extremely intelligent.
There must be chemistry between the alpha hero and his heroine. The female is never UNaware of him. He has lots of energy, even when he’s at rest. He is very confident and expects others to give in because he is very persuasive.
Love Transforms The Alpha Hero
He appears tough, jaded and rough on the outside, but he is tender and deeply feeling deep, deep inside.
He has a predatory instinct and will protect and defend at all costs, even his own live. Because he is so loyal and protective, he will watch other people’s back, and always protect those who are weak and cannot fight, and all women and children.
He will also help prepare boys to become men, sort of a mentor, or offer words of wisdom.
He doesn’t need perfect harmony, but he needs to complete his mission before he can move on. He would never leave unfinished business.
The Alpha Hero Needs an Alpha Female
He will go to the ends of the earth for the right woman. An alpha female is intelligent and a woman of strong convictions, who will not be bullied into going against her principles. She is someone who will protect home and children while he is away and become fierce when those she loves are threatened. She’s is the perfect Mother Bear protecting her cubs. He cannot have home and family without her there to watch his back.
So, how do we use the Alpha Male in writing?
Work his flaws; pride, stubbornness, unyielding, won’t accept other’s help or sacrifice, difficulty accepting love, and difficulty expressing emotions – they speak physically rather than verbally. We must give them external conflict to confront. Force them to choose between two worthy causes, or between their honor and their heart. I heard once that to create a good story, we should strand our characters up in a tree with no way to climb down and then throw rocks at them. Seeing them find a way to overcome their trials is the stuff of good stories. The Alpha Male will always triumph; he will never fail because he will never give up.