Writing For Presents: Heroes
This is a hard post to write (haha…I said hard…get your giggles out now kids.) because when it comes to character, I truly believe there are a lot more options than a lot of people think.
I see SO much STUFF on message boards about those ALPHA MALES. Oh, how people HATE them. Oh, they could never write one of those. They’re all mean, and cruel, and call the heroine names. And that’s what an alpha male is and blah.
*Maisey bangs her head on the desk*
That isn’t what alpha means. Certainly, you do find heroes in romance novels who have that personality, and I’m not saying they aren’t alpha males. In fact, a well motivated man who behaves in that manner, so long as he changes througout, is fine with me. What I am saying, is that alpha is a broad term, much broader than people seem to think.
And on that note, the Presents hero has much more room for variance than people seem to think as well. Truly, every author in this line is so different, and it’s a very voice driven line. Our editors ALWAYS encourage us to let our natural voices come through. That included letting our own voices shine through when it comes to our heroes.
An alpha male is the highest ranking male in a social group. The alpha of a wolf pack, the alpha of a World of Warcraft Guild and the alpha of a multi-billion dollar company will behave differently from each other. 😉
I’ve banged on about alpha heroes a lot in previous posts, because I think they have a bad rap. And because in reading contest entries, I’ve seen a lot of what I’ll call ‘Poser Alphas’ who are only behaving a certain way because it’s clear the writer had out her alpha checklist and was sort of filling in everything she believed that meant.
Playboy? Check. Jackass? Check. Calls the heroine a whore at least three times? Check.
I’ve read books where the heroes were, and did, ALL those things, and as long as it’s well motivated, it works. But when it’s only there because the writer is working off of an archetype for they think they HAVE to do, it shows.
That’s why I think it’s so important to examine who your character is and why he is that way.
I’m going to use one of Jennie Lucas’s heroes (because I LOVE him) as an example of that brooding, intense alpha hero. Maksim from The Christmas Love Child, had such a horrible past. And he lied to the heroine. And I LOVED that. Because you could see this struggle in him. He had a goal, and the heroine was his avenue to fulfilling that goal. And coming from an impovrished background where looking out for himself first was essential, it made his actions to understandable and forgivable. Watching him struggle with his conscience for the first time was so awesome as a reader. And the HEA was SO satisfying.
But he wasn’t just this selfish jerk out for his own ends. He was complex. He was a man who honestly didn’t quite know HOW to care about people, and Jennie showed us that so beautifully. He’s one of my favorite heroes ever. (The book finaled in the RITA last year, read it, you’ll see why)
Maksim is a Presents hero. No doubt.
At the other end of the spectrum, I’ll give you Gage Forrester, my hero from Marriage Made on Paper. He’s a Presents hero too. And he’s an alpha male. But Gage spent ten years raising his little sister and he is very in tune with his protective side as a result. He’s a Southern California guy, and while he’s totally driven in business, and completely able to turn on the ruthless when it comes to protecting his sister, he has a kind of laid back personality when it comes to day-to-day interaction. He’s a bit of playboy, but his family comes first.
In contrast to Maksim, who had only ever had to live for himself, as a matter of total survival, Gage has spent his life living for someone else’s needs.
These men are an example of alpha executed differently, and it all stems from…yes…character background.
There are so many heroes in the line, and they ARE different from each other. So when you approach writing a hero for the line, for any line, you have to to think of him as his own, individual person, not as a paint by number.
It says on the inside cover of the North American Presents that the line delivers “Unforgettable men.” And that’s the true promise and challenge.
This isn’t a post telling you NOT to make your alpha heroes a certain way, or telling you to make them the way I do. Don’t don’t do that. Make them the way YOU do. Make them believable. Make them real. Make them unforgettable, and most of all, make them yours!
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to leave them in comments!