Monday, November 30, 2009

Get Published Quick! Write a Romance! (or...hahahahahahaha!)

We had an interesting discussion in my crit group yesterday about loving your genre. Because if you don't, your reader will notice. If you're cynical about romance, or find the genre to be beneath you, the reader will notice.

Now, I think the majority of romance writers really love the genre, but I do think there are some who are sort of 'winking' at the reader. Or sneering, as the case may be. They have an attitude about it being a stepping stone on their way to the bigger and better. Well, I have news for you. Romance is about the biggest thing there is. As it's been pointed out, just about every genre has romance as a part of it.

What really burns my biscuits is when people act like they're going to get published quick by writing one of those romance novels. Like it's the pyramid scheme of fiction, or something.

But thinking that way does a big disservice to the writers of romance and the readers. And those of us who have been trying to get published for any length of time know it's not just a matter of 'boy meets girl, boy gets girl, writer sends to publisher, writer gets the contract.'

Like any other writer, we practice the craft. We learn about it. We refine it. We take it seriously. Not too seriously, which is something I love about the romance community. We know we're writing entertainment, but it's entertainment we love.

As I've said before, I love romance. I love to read it. I love to write it. And writing it is not a quick, simple way to get your name on a book cover. No matter your genre, I don't think there is a quick, simple way to do that that doesn't cost you a decent amount out of pocket.

Amen my fellow writers?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Alphas Again

Okay, yes, perhaps I've over posted on alphas. But they're darn tricky to write, because there is a fine line to walk between alpha and alphole sometimes, and no one wants to write the latter!

So my dear sister, Aideen, sent me this lovely quote that she saw on a documentary last night and I thought it was absolutely brilliant:

The true Alpha male is not a bully or a brute. He is the guy who is first to lead the charge for a worthy cause. He is supremely equipped, physically and mentally, to fight for success in the ultra-competitive world we inhabit.

The true Alpha male embodies the best characteristics of the male of our species, namely rugged outer qualities such as muscularity, strength and power, but also inner qualities such as confidence (without conceit), courage (without recklessness), commitment and a conscience.

The true Alpha male has the combination of physical and mental toughness but also a concern for other humans as a whole.

A true Alpha male meets the ideal of contemporary masculine excellence. In other words, the true Alpha male has all the core qualities of a hero.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Internal Conflict, and How it conflicts Me Internally

I've done a post on internal conflict before, but it bears repeating. I give the whole subject a lot of thought, after all. As we all should, since getting it wrong seems to earn a lot of very talented writers some very fast rejection letters! I was fortunate that my own conflict issue has only gotten me revisions at this point.

I was reading a post on Waiting For the Call, and it got me to thinking about why internal conflict is so much more effective than external conflict. Then it hit me, it's about character development.

If the conflict is external it doesn't require the characters to confront anything more serious than a moustache twirling villain or a scheming maiden aunt. Internal conflict forces characters to confront the demons inside of themselves and really change in order to get to that place of Happily Ever After.

Because if the conflict was caused in the first place by Scheming Maiden Aunt, who told the hero the heroine didn't want to marry him because she couldn't stand the thought of being tied down to one man (hussy that she is!), well then, what's the say Moustache Twirling Villain won't enter the scene after the HEA and break them apart again?

But if the HEA is reached only after the hero or heroine is forced the confront the internal issues keeping them apart, and they have to change these parts of themselves that are the most damaged, or the most staunchly set in its way in order to find happiness with each other, well that's an HEA I can believe in. They had to bleed for their love and because of that it's all that more precious and real.

It isn't just about the hero slaying the dragons, he's got to slay the ones inside of himself. Because that is what makes a lasting relationship in life. Changing yourself and getting over old hurts...not easy things for us to do. So seeing a character face all of that in the name of love, changing and becoming better...well, that's much more satisfying than, "Sorry, darling, it's just that from my position in the bushes it looked like you were encouraging him to take liberties, not biting him and pushing him away. Now that I know we can get married!"

So, what's your take on the whole conflict thing?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Needing Some Laughs

I'm in desperate need of some levity today. Has been an interesting week in the writing world and I just can't handle all the seeeerrrriousness anymore!!

Good news: my oldest son has been undergoing autism evaluations. The verdict is that he isn't autistic, he's just stubborn. As one of my lovely writing partners put it, "he just does things at his own pace, what he wants, when he wants. Typical alpha."

His speech delay is affecting some of his behavior, but that will be quite easily corrected and he's already doing much better with eye contact and name orientation. When he feels like it.

And also, Smart Bitches ( are doing a contest, deadline midnight EST tonight. They were challenging people to rename current Harlequin releases with the old 1950's flair. Winner gets the whole line of the vintage stationary (which I wants!!).

But me being me, I could not just sen
d in a text entry. I was too inspired. So, here's my Old Timey interpretation of 'Sheikh Boss, Hot Desert Nights' by Susan Stephens.

I call it...One For The Harem!

It made me so happy to make. :-) And it lifts my spirits.

So, how 'bout it people? Entertain me!! :-D I know...let's play a game! Comment me your fave OTT romance novel euphemisms...go for it.

I'll start!

"Log of Love" (this was not in a pubbed book, it was in a rejected MS...not mine!!!)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth..

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, pulls me out of a story faster than wooden, unbelievable dialogue. And it's not an uncommon problem, even in published books.

So what can be done to guard against this hideous, heinous problem?

In a lot of ways, I think it's an extension of character development. Who is your character? How old is she? Where is she from? What's her socio-economic class? Is she loud or soft-spoken? Brash or timid? All of these things are going to change the way she speaks. A thirty-something career woman is going to speak differently than her grandmother or her sixteen year old sister.

For example, in this snippet from one of my MSs, my heroine Stacey is completely outspoken. She's from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak, and she doesn't do well censoring her thoughts. Jack, the hero, while also from the West Coast of the US, was raised in a wealthy family. Control is important to him and he isn't the kind of person to just run off at the mouth. (scary offering up my own dialogue as an example, but here it goes...)

She looked past him. “I want you to know, I tried to call you. I did. I left a message with your PA and you never called back, and so I came here to see you, only I couldn't get in to see you, so I was just going to go home.”

“You're rambling.”

“Yeah, I do that when I'm nervous. But you try telling some guy you barely know that you're pregnant and see you calm you feel.” She clapped a hand over her mouth in a belated attempt to stop the uncontrollable flow of words from escaping.

Jack's eyes narrowed. “You're what?”


“And this has something to do with me?”

Her blood reached the boiling point. “No. I thought I'd come all this way to let you know I got knocked up by some random guy. So, it's been real, I'll look you up next time I'm in the area.”

His temper snapped. “This is not the time for sarcasm.”

She let out an indignant huff. “Well, ask a stupid question.”

“So, you're telling me it's my baby?” he began to pace the room. He felt dangerously close to losing his trademark cool. In every situation in his life, business or personal, he was always in control. Except, it seemed, with Stacey.

“Of course it's your baby! Do you think I hopped out of your bed and into someone elses?”

His blue eyes flashed dangerously. “Well, you hopped into mine pretty fast.”

Her cheeks flamed. “You hopped just as fast as I did.” Of all the chauvinistic double standards.

He had the decency to look somewhat cowed by that. “I'm sorry. That was uncalled for.”

Especially with Stacey, I don't let proper grammar get in the way of creating realistic flow in the conversation. (who am I kidding? I don't let proper grammar stand in the way of anything...) And I wasn't out to make Jack sound overly stiff, just demonstrate a subtle difference in the way they react to things. And that she, like most women, has ten words to his every two. :-)

Run-ons, fragments and all kinds of grammar no-no's sound a lot more realistic than a perfectly structured sentence that reads like an homage to proper syntax.

Contractions (the pregnant lady grips her belly at the usage of that one) are another thing. I can't tell you how annoyed I get reading this in a book, "I am glad that you came. You are going to owe me for being late." "Yes, I know. I am sorry that I was late. It is icy out on the road and I did not want to drive unsafely."

BAHHH!!!! Now, maybe your character talks that way, and if he does, fine, but if that's the case then it will feel natural, an organic part of the character, instead of just stilted and unreal.

One good way to see how a section of dialogue is flowing is to read it out loud. Does it sound like something people would say? Like something your character would say? Like something they would say in the era you're MS is set in?

Don't look for a post on writing beautiful prose from me though, as that's just not my thing. It's a struggle really. But if any of you want to post on it, I'd be happy to go glean info from it...

So do you find writing dialogue easy or hard? What are your tips and tricks for making it real? What challenges come for those of you writing in different times or even different worlds?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tone of Voice

The MS that I just finished was a lot darker than what I generally write. We had a dead wife and all kinds of baggage between the H and h, and while there was humor (I simply can't help but add some!) the overall tone was a little bit heavy.

In contrast, the MS I just started is much lighter. Of course, a lot of that is owed to the situation and the characters. They're not coming from as dark of a place, which makes the overall feel of it much different. And so much depends on who the characters are.

My heroine, Caitlin, has just discovered her fiancee in a very compromising position with her sister, and while it's a heartbreak for her, she's handling it with a little bit of humor. Not everyone, or every character, would handle it this way, but after the twelve hour crying jag she's more interested in moving on than wallowing.

As this is my thirteenth MS *screams* I've noticed that, while my voice is my voice (and re-reading my own writing I can get very tired of hearing myself 'talk') the tone of it does change, even though my MSs are all aimed at the same line. So much depends on those characters!

In my third MS I had a heroine who suffered from foot-in-mouth disease and tended to just spout whatever came to her mind without censoring it. That, of course, made the tone of the MS lighter and added a bit more humor naturally. I've also had characters coming from a place it's hard to find humor in, and with that the overall tone was much darker.

I really enjoy writing both, just as I enjoy reading both. I like a good laugh and I like a good, heartfelt cry. If I can get both in the same book, as a reader or writer, all the better!

So, how 'bout you? Do you find the tone of your voice changes? Or are you a little less schizo than me? :-)


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Building Character

So, I'm starting a new MS and of course, this means I'm creating a new set of characters. Ideas always come to me a little bit differently, sometimes the characters come first, sometimes a scenario comes first. When the scenario comes first I tend to think 'well, okay...what characters would have the most conflict with this!'

In this instance, the plot came before the characters. I knew I needed a prince, and I knew I needed a commoner. Beyond that, I had nothing in mind. So I had some free rein in creating the people that wanted to inhabit my new little world.

First order of business was to figure out who the hero was. He had to be commanding, of course, and sexy, and powerful. He's a prince after all. And as I'm partial to dark haired, dark skinned men, he was lucky enough to be blessed with hose attributes. But that isn't who he is. So I had to dig deeper and figure out what his internal conflict was. What would hold this man, with wealth, power, everything he could want at his fingertips, back from falling straight into love with the heroine?

So as the picture of my hero began to form, the heroine started taking shape. I knew the hero was going to be all about duty and honor, a very straight laced, traditional kind of guy. And I knew that with that, I wanted a woman who didn't back down from a challenge, who had wit to spare and who knew how to hold her own. Her personality was formed as a foil to his, so that she was someone who would both compliment and challenge the hero that I had created. Even her looks were designed to be in opposition to something: the woman my hero is *gasp* engaged to.

Then I started going deeper into her, figuring out where she came from, and what things are hang-ups for her, what sorts of things would bother her and which things would roll off her back, and ultimately, what would be the breaking point for her in a relationship.

From the character histories that I created came all kinds of things about them, the way they move, the way they talk and the way they react in certain situations.

Caitlin, my heroine, for example, is from the Midwest and has a much more casual speech pattern than Renzo, the hero, who speaks English as a second language and grew up in a much more formal environment.

Character building, for me, is never the same thing twice. With my last MS I created two people with a fairly complete history and then though: What would be about the most difficult situation for them to deal with? Then I threw it at them. As far as internal conflict went, this made writing that MS pretty straightforward.

How do you do it? How do you build characters and bring them to life? What comes first, the characters or the plot?

Monday, November 9, 2009


I've mentioned in past posts that I consider revision letters to be little chunks of gold. And being the proud owner of three, count 'em, three, that pertain to the same manuscript, I'm starting to get an idea of some of the pitfalls we unpublished writers can fall into.

So, I thought I would talk about some of the main points made in my letters, to give you an idea of what the editors are looking for, using my folly as an example. Hey, someone oughtta learn from my mistakes, right?

A lot of this relates specifically to Harlequin Presents/Modern, but also could be translated to any publisher of any genre, because good writing, good story construction, is pretty universal.

Pace: After my second round of revisions I had added in some new scenes, which was a bad idea, because while, in my mind, I was building a mood, in reality I was slowing the pace. I had added these scenes that were fine enough, but they weren't advancing the story. Especially in these shorter novels, pacing is a big deal.

Recently, with all the contests floating around, I've seen a lot of the people who judge contests saying that the biggest problem they see in entries is pacing. Too much time is spent describing the mundane and not enough time spent propelling the story forward.

I heard it described this way once: In the classics, like Dickens for example, description was much more important. The author might spend two paragraphs explaining a cobblestone street. Because maybe not everyone knew just what a cobblestone street was. Now we're inundated with images, we've seen much more, and in our movie culture we demand stories with a more movie-like pace, rather than one that spends four pages telling you about the gables of a house.

When editing, ask yourself: what is this scene doing to advance the plot? As it was put in my letter, "In this case the reader is almost waiting for the point of change, or a secondary layer of conflict."

And I didn't deliver it. What I had was some boring scenes that just sat there.

Conflict: Oh, this is the biggie. Conflict. Internal stinking conflict. In my letter it was put this way, "Readers respond to strong, believable conflicts that stem from the character’s fundamental personality, and which exist within the construct of the relationship itself."

Well, that means that (and this seems like a no duh, but it took be long enough to get it) the conflict comes from within the characters, not an outside source. External conflict is there, it's essential to most plots.

For example: The h and H have to get married to secure an inheritance, but they'll only stay married for one year.

But that's not what keeps them apart, it's not what drives them or what makes them who they are, and ultimately it's not the twelve month limit on the relationship that's going to end it, it's their own issues. And no, it can't be a crazy ex-girlfriend, I tried that. That's also external.

But what if the hero believes that no one can love him? His own mother left him, and since then, since acquiring his vast fortune, everyone in his life has just been a leech, after his wealth. So he rejects the heroine's love because he believes it to be false, based on an insecurity within him.

Probably not the best example, but I thought it up on the fly. And anyway, you get the idea. Internal conflict is not the crazy exes or evil aunts or half-heard conversations.

Character: Now, she had a lot of good to say about my characters, but she had some very valid points about some things I'd done wrong. This is from my third letter and she mentions that especially during revisions, it's easy to have characters slip out of...well...character.

With my hero especially, as I've mentioned, I had to really make him more alpha than he was in my first draft, and while I did that, there were moments where Old Marco came out and undermined New Sexy Marco. It was essential that I made sure I knew Marco so that I could read through the MS and know right away if he was acting 'off.'

As for my heroine, I was guilty, at times, of falling back on cliches. Elaine is a strong woman, educated and career oriented, yet at times she did things simply because it's what the heroines do. When Marco reached for her she gave a cry and pulled away. And it was brought up in the letter 'why would she give a cry?' Good question. Why would my very non-shrinking violet heroine turn into a swooning Southern Belle suddenly?

The editor's words were, "have faith in your characters. Don’t try and emulate what you have read before, but build believable, three-dimensional people who have honest reactions. Don’t fall back on the stereotype."

And that's great advice for every author and every MS in every genre. If the reader can't buy into the characters, they won't care about the book. We have to make people that are real, who say real things and react to situations the way real people would. Even if they are richer and prettier while doing it. :-)

And in closing, she reminded me to let my natural voice shine through, because that's what they want. Authors who can bring their own twist and flavor to the line, not retreads of what's been seen before.

Write happy, my friends!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Excerpt from His Unwanted Wife (first draft)

I just love a story with some unrequited love, not to mention some very big obstacles. So I gave Cade and Sabrina both to contend with. I love these characters so much, and I'm really looking forward to getting into some edits!

Here's a very rough excerpt from my just finished MS, His Unwanted Wife! Enjoy!


Sabrina clapped a hand over her chest to try and still her beating heart. Cade had never looked more handsome than he did tonight. And she was certain she’d never loved him more.
She knew there were plenty of people who would say that a young woman of eighteen didn’t know what true love was, but she did. She knew she did. She had from the first moment she’d seen Cade scowling in the entryway of her family home, his protective grasp on his mother’s arm, his misgivings about his newly inherited family clearly etched in his face.

He’d been the only man for her from that moment on. Not that he’d ever noticed her in that way. She was just his annoying stepsister as far as he was concerned But that was going to change tonight.

Smoothing her hands over the slinky burgundy velvet that hugged her abundant figure like a second skin, she began to walk out from her parent’s grand ballroom and onto the terrace. Cade was there, his hands gripping the railing tight, his focus on the ocean that crashed against the rocks below. He was so handsome it took her breath away. No, not just handsome, sexy.

One thing that had changed about her feelings in the past eight years was the nature of her desires. When she’d first met him she’d thought him the most handsome boy she’d ever seen, and she’d hero worshipped him to the point of driving him crazy.

She no longer worshipped him, not in that way. She wanted him. Like a woman wanted a man. She longed to kiss his sensual lips, to caress his chiseled jaw and twine her fingers through his thick dark hair. She wanted to kiss his neck, his chest. Everything. Everywhere. It had become an absolute madness inside of her, this need for him both emotionally and physically.

He was so handsome, his broad tall frame backlit by the silver glow of the moon. She placed her hands on her full hips, horribly self-conscious of the fact that she wasn’t the essence of female perfection. She felt wide and ungainly suddenly, not exactly like a sexy siren.
She took a breath the steel herself against the nerves that were threatening to overwhelm her. No going back now. Cade was her birthday present to herself. She wanted him and she wasn’t going to deny herself anymore. It was her birthday party after all. Shouldn’t she get the one thing she wanted most?

“Hi,” she said, suddenly feeling a lot more timid and a lot less like the brazen vixen she’d imagined she might transform herself into with a form fitting dress and stiletto heels. Instead she was just conscious of the fact that any rogue bubble of fat might choose that moment to shift and make itself visible to his piercing brown gaze.

“Happy birthday,” he said, lifting a glass of champagne in her direction.

“Could I have some of that?” she asked, gesturing to the fizzy drink in his hand.

“Maybe in three more years, princess,” he said, her childhood nickname sounding oddly intimate on his lips tonight. Maybe it was just her wild imagination wanting everything he said to sound intimate.

“I’m not a child, Cade,” she said, trying to make her voice sound a little huskier, a little more sensual.

“I didn’t say you were. But the law is the law.” He tipped back another sip, a mocking grin on his handsome face.

She rubbed her lips together to smooth out a lump she could feel forming in the dark red lipstick. “And you’re nothing if not an upright citizen.” Which served her just fine since, as of tonight, it was officially legal for him to take her to bed. The thought made her insides twist with nervous pleasure. She didn’t know that much about men, but she’d done a lot of research on the subject of sex. No sense going into anything a total novice, not when one could prepare.

She moved closer to him, the scent of his cologne combined with the musk of man teased her nose. No one smelled like Cade. He was intoxicating. A low pulse began to beat at the apex of her thighs and her nipples peaked. It was always like this when she was around him, and she was finally doing something about it.

“That’s me. I’m just an upstanding kind of guy,” he said with a lopsided grin.

“So how is…how is business going?” she asked, leaning in a little closer to try and catch some of that forbidden scent again.

“It’s going well.” He treated her to a real smile, one that showed his perfect teeth and her heart melted. “Our charters have increased by twenty five percent in the last quarter.”

“Who would have thought that renting out yachts and planes could be such a money maker?”
The teasing glint in his eyes melted her bones. “Well, I did. And I’ve more than paid back everyone who invested in the start up.”

She reached a hand out and put it on his arm. She shivered when his bicep flexed beneath her fingertips. His eyes snapped up and met hers, his expression inscrutable. Her breath hitched.


“Sabrina! Cade!” At that moment Caryn, Sabrina’s best friend, came waltzing out onto the deck, her chin length bob sleek, not a dark hair out of place. Her figure was perfectly sleek too, none of the little bubbles of imperfect flesh destroying her smooth lines.

Her friend grinned and a little dimple appeared by her full lips. She looked back at Cade and saw she’d lost his attention. He moved away from her, the cold left by his retreating body heat had her feeling bereft.

Then he was at Caryn’s side, too close for it to be casual or accidental. He wound his arm around her waist and she flashed him a glowing smile.

Shock slammed her chest with the force of a brick, nearly knocking her back with the weight of it. Caryn looked sheepish, a slight flush covering her cheeks. “I didn’t want to say anything until I knew if it was going to turn into anything,” she said.

“What?” Sabrina’s voice sounded stupid and hollow to her own ears.

Of course Caryn didn’t know about her feelings for Cade, no one did. The sheer weight of what she felt for him, combined with the forbidden aspect of him being her stepbrother, had always kept her from confiding in anyone. But surely she had to be hallucinating. He couldn’t be with Caryn, not that way, not now.

Cade flashed her a wide smile and drew Caryn closer to his body. “We’ve been seeing each other for a couple months.”

“But because of our friendship we didn’t want to say anything in case it didn’t work out,” Caryn finished, her eyes sparkling.

“But since I’ve asked Caryn to marry me and she’s accepted, we thought it would be a good time to tell you.”

“We’re going to be sisters!” Caryn exploded. “Happy Birthday!”

Sabrina felt the hot rush of tears sting her eyes and she knew she couldn’t let them fall. The cake she’d eaten earlier rolled in her stomach and she wanted more than anything to lean over the railing and heave it back up. She swallowed against the suffocating ache that was climbing her throat. “Congratulations.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Alpha-betizing Your Hero!

Okay, image is kind of unrelated, I just love this cover*. But really, this guy is pretty hot, can you blame me?


When I received my first revision letter back on Oct. of '08, for the partial MS I had submitted, one of the main things the editor wanted me to change was the way my hero reacted to the heroine, and to the situation in general.

The paragraph on the hero is as follows: An alpha hero is noted for his control of the situations he finds himself in, so in order for him not to lose when she presents her proposal this we need to see a little more from him as a character. Maybe we could see a little more cynicism from him with regard to her proposal? At the moment he seems to weaken a little quickly for a successful businessman. We need to see a little more of the ruthlessness that got him to the top!

Truth be told, I had set out to make something of a kinder, gentler hero, which, I realize now, just doesn't translate to Presents!

So I had three chapters to take my hero and bring him from beta to alpha. So I did a lot of reading on the Harlequin sites about what makes an alpha (see previous post!) and I sat down to see what I could do with Marco, my hero.

This is going to sound really silly, but I swear to you it worked. I looked through a lot of the dialogue and did some very simple changes. The first thing I did was change his questions to commands.

Example: "Will you accompany me?" becomes "You will accompany me." Simple. But effective. And it went a long way in helping me tip the balance of power back to him.

Which is another thing: Nobody puts an alpha in the corner.

My heroine was the instigator of the marriage of convenience in my MS, which forced me to walk a very tricky line, one I didn't walk very well at first, to have it be her proposal, but to have him be the one with the control.

So it helped for me to put it in Marco's POV, so show him taking the proposal and thinking of the ways it could be used to his advantage. I think it was important that the stakes were higher for the heroine. Financially, it was beneficial to Marco, but he was successful on his own. So while it would mean more money for him, the marriage wasn't as necessary for him as it was for her, which reversed the power balance on poor Elaine, my heroine.

As long as the need was greater for her, he held all the cards. She approached him, and plan was hers, but the ultimate terms and conditions were up to him.

The one thing I did not do to make my hero more alpha, was weaken the heroine. Elaine is a strong, independent woman with goals and aspirations and I did not want to sacrifice her strengths in order to make him look stronger. And I didn't need to. A weak heroine doesn't add strength to your hero. If anything, it makes the whole dynamic of the relationship a watered down disaster where the hero really is just a bully and the heroine might as well have 'Welcome' stamped across her forehead.

In fact, I think a strong heroine enhances the hero's alpha-ness. He can get away with a lot more if she's able to stand up for herself, stand her ground.

Adding the alpha to Marco didn't mean adding cruelty, although New Marco did say some things Old Marco would never have dreamed of, but New Marco had that alpha freedom, that ruthless streak that enabled him to speak with such confidence that he would plainly speak his opinions and lay out the reality of a situation without sugar coating.

What's your secret for crafting a deliciously strong alpha male? Share your thoughts on the process!!


*Cover from The Desert King's Bejewelled Bride by Sabrina Philips. If you haven't read it already, then what are you waiting for? Check it out!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Alpha Male *hoooowwwwl*

Ah, the Alpha Male. He's the cornerstone of the bulk of the category romances. He's the ultimate feminine fantasy, the untamable, seemingly complete man who has everything (and every woman) his heart desires, and yet when he meets the heroine, our 'everygirl', he realizes that she's the one thing he doesn't have, and she's the one thing he needs. Oh, he doesn't realize it right away, that takes much conflict and tension and passion, but by about chapter 10 he ought to be on his way.

So what is an Alpha Male? You can put National Geographic away because I'm not talking wolf packs. You can put Twilight away too, because neither am I talking werewolves. This is one of those special romance novel definitions (much like 'mistress').

Like his title implies, the Alpha Male is in charge. He's successful, he's driven, and he's an entity unto himself. He doesn't need anyone, least of all a woman, except for, well, you know, and he certainly doesn't need love!

Above all, Alpha Male does not mean bully. I read that on the eHarlequin site and I thought they nailed it with that. An Alpha Male has to have his own moral code, which he lives by strictly. He's not amoral and he certainly doesn't belittle people to elelvate himself. Now, he may lash out when cornered, or challenged emotionally, but 'alpha' is not synonymous with 'man who spends entire book degrading heroine and calling her awful names'. Granted, I've seen this, especially in older romances, where the hero is just inexplicably mean and by the end of the book the groveling is just too little too late and I want to bean him in his handsome face!

I think it's a cop out to write a hero as alpha that way, especially when there are other ways to do it that don't make him a one dimensional character.

Not to say he and the heroine can't have some pretty blistering fights, or that he won't say things that are hurtful, but there's yards between that and a guy who's just taking advantage of, and picking on, someone physically, and maybe emotionally, weaker than himself.

Above all, beneath his hardened exterior, the Alpha Male is a good man. He's honorable. He's the man we want to see the heroine tame (but not neuter!). And he has to be someone we care about, not just a trite caricature.

What makes a great Alpha for you? What books have some of your favorites?
P.S. The use of Fabio was entirely tongue in cheek. Also, I was going to write about the transformation of my decidedly beta hero to a much more macho alpha hunk, but this got long, so that will be part deux!