Character Development Case Study #10 – The Alpha Male
We’re going general on this one and looking at the Alpha Male trope. I’ve read a lot of books with Alpha Male characters recently, so it’s fresh in my mind, but it also made me wonder what it is about the Alpha Male that’s so appealing. Because I never thought I liked the whole Alpha Male thing, but then I write male love interests that have definite Alpha Male traits – so it’s obviously seeped into my consciousness.
Alpha Males tend to have some hardship or tragedy in their backgrounds – something they’ve sought to overcome by becoming powerful and in control. Bond, who was the first character to come up when I put ‘Alpha Male’ in Google, is an orphan; others come from poverty or other loss. It’s not the case for all, but I think writers like the poetry of a character come from nothing making themselves into multi-millionaire, super powerful businessmen.
Of course, power doesn’t necessarily equate to money (though reader wish-fulfilment has had a lot to do with the excess of Alpha billionaires, I think!) Bond is rich, but his power is his skill. Others just have the charisma of a dominating personality that make them magnetic and alluring without the need for riches. And then if you read paranormal, Alpha can take on a whole extra layer!
One of the appealing things about Alpha Males is they go after what they want. And usually what they decide they want is the heroine. There’s something very erotic about the idea of being pursued by a sexy man who is blatant in his desire for you – without being a creeper – and it’s used all the time in romance and erotica novels. Depending on the nature of the story, they may be motivated by other things as well, but the motivation of winning the heroine is usually what drives them.
Development for Alpha Males is twofold. One, it’s the heroine, or other characters, learning about the aforementioned hardship in their lives and coming to understand why they are who they are and how much they’ve worked to get there. Two, it’s the revelation of the soft side, learning to compromise and sacrifice in order to keep the heroine. Because love is the one thing that can’t be controlled like business. If Alpha Males have a flaw it’s that they can be a bit controlling – and I don’t mean that in a bad way necessarily (though it can become like that), they just have an idea of how they want things to be, and don’t always want to give up on that. Learning that your lover can be challenging and that it can be a good thing in a relationship is usually what makes the Alpha Male become the perfect partner.