Monday, August 27, 2012

Mechanics on Monday: Writing the Alpha hero by Tina Vaughn

As we strive to write unpredictable and emotion-filled stories, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to create memorable characters–and to me, there's nothing so powerful or pleasing as the Alpha hero.

Whether a CEO or vampire, the Alpha hero is a leader; he's in a position of power and is in complete control of his life…or so he thinks.

Character development is complex. And over the years I've done my best to simplify my approach to writing the Alpha hero by creating a three-pronged method to his development.

First, we see the perfection or facade of the hero. This is who he wants everyone to think he is. He might even believe this is who he is.

Second, we glimpse the imperfection and insecurities of the hero. This is what he tries to hide from the world, and especially our heroine.

And last, we see the real hero, who he is when he's in love with the heroine. He's not perfect, but he's perfect for our heroine.


This is the outer layer, the trappings or wrapping, so to speak, of the Alpha male.
When I begin to write an Alpha hero, I know there are intrinsic characteristics and attributes he may have, including but not limited to, intelligence, good looks and/or a commanding presence, physical strength, wealth, a powerful profession, etc. He may be authoritative, dictatorial, bossy or by all appearances, cold and calculating. He's intimidating in his success and power. Men fear and respect him. Women want him. On the surface, he's…well, perfect.

Where does this appear in the story? We'll see this “perfection package” in its entirety in the beginning and certain characteristics intermittently as the story progresses. For example, if you're targeting a category romance line where wealth and glamor is part of the line's promise, then you'll continue to reference that wealth throughout the novel. Maybe our hero flies the heroine to Paris in his private jet. Maybe he buys her diamond earrings or a priceless piece of art.
Conversely, our hero's autocratic ways may dissipate as the story progresses, especially if this domineering characteristic is a mechanism for distancing himself from our heroine.


This is where we, and most importantly, the heroine get a glimpse of our hero's insecurities or vulnerabilities. In my opinion, this is also how our heroine sees past the surface attraction to identify with the real person rather than the ideal image our hero has created. As a writer and reader, I need to know that the hero and heroine feel more than sexual attraction. I want them to see a bit of themselves in each other. I want them to connect on an emotional level, even when neither one is ready to admit that such a thing exists.

Where does this appear in the story? For me personally, this glimpse appears in the first chapter and with increasing frequency as the story progresses. Yes, our hero is physically and sexually attractive to our heroine from the beginning of the story, but I also need her to see beyond the physical, beyond the perfection. Ideally, we're revealing our hero to be a mere human, rather than an untouchable god. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including:
  • a shared moment of empathy (The hero has a wayward sibling and so does our heroine.)
  • a quirk (humming as a distraction.)
  • a brief moment of weakness (yawning.)
  • an embarrassing situation (food in his teeth.)
  • a tender moment (his cat jumps in his lap and he gives Kitty some love.)


This is who the hero really is. He finally reveals the person he's tried to hide from the world for so many years. Our heroine has helped him face his weaknesses and insecurities, and he's ready to risk everything he has (the perfection) for a lifetime of happiness with her.

Where does this appear in the story? I always reveal our “true” Alpha hero just before the black moment. In my opinion, the hero and readers need to see how happy and wonderful the hero can be…just before he loses it all. (Yeah, I know. I'm a meanie.) However, I think this strengthens the story because when our hero finally does grab his happily ever after (a final and forever revelation of his true self) and offers our heroine the world and a lifetime of love and passion, then we know it's going to last. By the time our story ends, our Alpha hero has finally ditched his perfect shell in order to embrace a meaningful, real and unshakeable love, despite his insecurities.
He and the heroine and especially their love becomes an absolute certainty. Truth.

As I conclude this post, three things strike me as particularly important regarding the Alpha hero:

  • as we all know, perfection isn't interesting. And if our hero is perfect just as he is, then he doesn't need our heroine or love. Make him human.
  • it's not that an Alpha hero doesn't have feelings or emotions, it's just that he's buried them under a tough-guy exterior or a layer of power and perfection.
  • when the Alpha hero finally humbles himself, when he bares all and dares to love, he loves completely and without restraint. (Feel free to swoon.)

Do you enjoy reading stories with Alpha heroes? Who are some of your favorite Alpha heroes and why? What are some of your favorite characteristics of an Alpha hero? If you're a writer, what are some of your tips for creating likeable Alpha heroes?

Thanks so much for visiting with us today.


  1. After googling about alpha heros, i stumbled across this blog and I have to say its 'perfect'! And thank you to Tina for writing it. Just the guidance I needed.

  2. Yay, Samantha!
    I'm so glad you found us and that the post was helpful.
    You're so welcome. :)