It’s Heroes Week here on the blog as I’m celebrating the print release of BACKLASH.
No one can argue with the appeal of strong heroes. There is considerable discussion, however, over the definition of the word strong and what that means in terms of attributes other than muscles. Not that there’s anything wrong with a nicely sculpted six pack.
“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it.” Thucydides
When written well they are incredibly sexy. So, what can I do to create a hero who is fantasy worthy? Who embodies the qualities that would keep a reader turning the pages?
**Strong Heroes Toolkit
Sense of Honor: Most important would be a sense of honor. A strictly held to Code of Conduct. That requires honesty, fairness, and integrity in one’s beliefs. Above all, he had better back it up with his actions.
Set of Core Values: These speak to what the hero wants. To his motivation. Ideally, one or more of his beliefs will have to change in order for him to have his happily ever after. Conflict, conflict, conflict.
Exemplary Hero Credentials: I might show him saving someone, or performing an act of heroism, for which he takes no credit early on in the story. I might create a situation revealing his ability to love and commit, even if he would shudder at the thought. An alpha hero needs to prove himself worthy of sympathy by the reader.
Respect for the Heroine as an Equal: They may butt heads. They may clash. They may disagree. They may not treat each other as inferior, weak, or stupid. They are partners. Boundaries must be set and often by the heroine.
Stamina and A Very Specific Skill Set: Yes, I do mean sexual prowess. This may be one of the areas subject to the largest level of poetic license in the romantic fantasy. The ability to make love all night long. Over and over again. Always putting the pleasure of the heroine before his own. But whatever the type of sex, it must be mutual. There is no “you know you want it” type thinking. No means no. Any alpha male worth reading knows this. Choice offered. Answer respected. No qualifiers.
Physical Strength: My idea of the perfect alpha male involves muscles, and lots of them. Frankly, I’m not so much about physical appearance, beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all that, but I’m a sucker for a six-pack. One of my favorite books by Eloisa James is called A Duke Of Her Own. It is the Duke of Villiers story. The Duke, who is not thought to be especially attractive, knows it’s his money that draws women to his bed. However, he is equally aware that his physique and his skill keeps them there.
Natural Leadership Qualities: Who isn’t drawn to these? To the alpha in the pack who doesn’t second-guess? Who leads instinctively? Part of the fantasy remember? Confident and sexy.
Feelings: He has them. He does not discuss them. Unless. Absolutely. Necessary. An alpha male needs a strong voice. He needs to use language and descriptors appropriate to an alpha male.
Courage: I think there’s a quote that goes something like: Courage is not the lack of fear, but rather it is taking action in the face of, and despite, fear. My idea of the alpha male psyche includes a healthy sense of fear accompanied by smart action in the face of it. Their physical strength must match their inner strength.
A Serious Flaw: Or two. While talking about world-building from my friend, Hayley, I learned about the Rules of Magic. I think it should apply to alpha males, too. Just as magic can’t do anything it pleases, neither can alpha males. You can’t just bandy about all that testosterone without limits and repercussions. They need a weakness. To be vulnerable. How else are you going to make him suffer? Have the heroine make him suffer? Create conflict? And more conflict?
Are you drawn to alpha males? What qualities and traits would appear in your Alpha Male Toolkit? Do you have a favorite alpha male character?
**My Strong Males Toolkit first appeared on a group blog I used to write for called The Prairie Chicks Write Romance but I thought it might be worth sharing again.