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!!


  1. Maisey, new to your blog. GREAT post, and sooo true. I took several online writing classes this year and one (of many!) light bulb moments was just how little can separate the alpha from the beta male. Simply changing "Please shut the door" to "Shut the door" changes the tone of a scene and, as a result, your hero.


  2. Thank you, Amy! And you're absolutely right, the veil that separates the two is pretty thin. When I got the letter it seemed like a huge change to make at first, and in the end it was shocking how very little actually had to change.

    It seemed like 'oh no! I have to change my whole character!' but it didn't end up that way at all. Little mannerisms, his reactions, and yeah, dropping the 'please'! LOL. That's a good one!

  3. Hey, yeah, very simple but very effective! I can be a little guilty of making mine a bit too laid back but I like that 'you will accompany me'. Hehe.
    Yes, great point about the heroine. As Michelle Styles always tells me, the heroine must have some cards as well, she can't start too low. And definitely if she's strong, then the hero HAS to alpha-up.

    I don't usually have problems with writing alphas - don't know if it's any great secret though, other than writing what I particularly find sexy in a hero.

  4. I hate a doormat heroine. Drives me batty. There's no dynamic or spark between them!

    Great advice re the heroine. She has to have some cards!

    That's wonderful that writing alphas is natural for you! Jealousy!! :-) I'm getting it, but it was a process for me. I think that's such a great principle: Write what you find sexy! And even if you wouldn't really want an alpha (and hey, they beta a bit at the end!) we all know that a man who takes charge is hot!

  5. Great post, Maisey! Makes me feel like I have at least one chapter right in my book.

    I am realizing I like an Alpha male. Especially, the Spanish ones. :-)

  6. *sigh* fantasy break. Spanish alpha male...okay, all done. :-)

    I'm loving the alpha as well, and I wasn't so much when I started writing. But it gets easier and easier. Maybe, like Jackie said, it's about writing what you think is sexy. And I'm appreciating the alpha sexy more and more.

  7. Yes, Jackie's right. Writing about what you think is sexy. Dark corners? Yes?