Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

More on the Alpha hero May 1, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 12:04 am
Tags: , , ,


I’ve spent the day thinking about my hero, Luk, today, especially his motivations and relationship blocks. I don’t feel I have a good enough handle yet on what his internal conflicts are before I start writing.

So I went back to the Kate Walker blog series on the Alpha hero. Plenty to think about here!

I have cut excerpts from the posts that resonated with me, and a response for how that might relate to Luk and my story. I got a load of new ideas about Luk, his background, his fears, and how that might affect the story. Plus a couple of completely outrageous possibilities that could be fun to play with…



That’s the sort of situation, the conflict, that your hero ends up in. That’s the man whose story you are telling. The man who is reacting to a crisis and to what he feels needs to be done to sort it out. And because you pitch him against a heroine who throws him totally off balance because he experiences feelings for her that he has never known before. And possibly because he feels that she is completely the wrong person to feel those emotions about, then his reactions – good or bad – are even more intense, even more heightened. He’s in a situation that is out of his comfort zone, where the way he’s lived up to know, the coping techniques he’s used, the things that have worked in the past, no longer work. He’s dealing with different sorts of dangers – emotional dangers – the ones that can break hearts. Kate Walker
He’s never felt in love before, never felt so protective. (Maybe I need to make all his sisters older, as he would naturally have felt protective to his little sister- saved them from bullies and bad boyfriends the like.) This does throw him off balance.
Also, the element of her being the “wrong person”. I did toy with the idea of making Emma’s character totally different, at least appearing to be something he disapproves of and unsuitable to be Princess, so he has an internal conflict right there. Can he foist this woman onto his country to avoid taking on the responsibility of being Prince? Meanwhile, Emma is going to see him as irresponsible and selfish. Is the fact that she is his second cousin and heir to the throne enough to make her the “wrong person”? 


He controls his world. Nothing can shake it… but, of course, something will. A woman. One very special woman. And once he meets her, his life will never again be the same. He’ll do whatever it takes to bed her because sex is vital to him. He’s a man who likes women, enjoys being with them, knows how to be an out-of-this-world lover. But being in love, admitting to it? That’s different. It’s probably the one thing that terrifies him, though he’d never admit it. A man in love is not a man in control of his feelings. That realization will shake him to the core.
Still, not even he will be able to deny his feelings forever and when he finally admits he wants that one special woman, not just now but for all time, watch out! He’ll move heaven and earth to win her and keep her… and that will bring into play all those sexy qualities that make him the man he is, a man women everywhere adore. Sandra Marton

This is Luk’s main internal conflict- admitting he is in love. He sees love as a weakness, as losing control. Initially, he’ll risk losing her, because he can’t admit it, even to himself. His self image is based on always being the one in control. It’s going to be very difficult for him to let go of that.


 For me an Alpha hero is a guy who gets the job done. It’s as simple as that. He’s honorable and reliable and dependable. He’s the one who — despite what he says or what anyone else says — will never let you down. Even if he doesn’t want to do it, he will do what needs to be done. And because he’s competent, he succeeds.
He doesn’t have to be brutal or arrogant or wealthy or a bully to do any of that.
He is not, however, perfect. Usually he’s anything but. I guess you could make a hero brutal, arrogant and a bully and reform him, but it doesn’t particularly interest me. What interests me is seeing him find the courage to face his own flaws and overcome them — getting that job done. That’s what makes him truly and fully an Alpha hero in my book. Anne McAllister

This is Luk for sure. He doesn’t want to take on the job of being Prince, but he finds the lost rightful heir. He doesn’t want to have to rescue Emma from the kidnappers, but because he can, he does. And he got her into the danger, so his sense of honour won’t let him leave her there. He’ll sacrifice a little bit of his freedom, in the marriage of convenience. But the biggie is giving her the ultimate control, admitting that he loves her, that he wants to make the marriage real. He can’t do that and stay the man he thinks he is, can he?


 In his personal life? Here’s where his cynicism creeps in. A man who is so wealthy, powerful, good looking and single can take his pick from the countless beautiful women who throw themselves at him – which does not mean that he does. Discernment is the key to my alpha hero. To simply take a woman because she is there for the taking is, in his view, as bad as a woman selling herself for money. My Alpha Hero would have way too much pride and respect in himself to do that.
Which means he isn’t stupid. When it comes to his deeper emotions he keeps them securely locked away from all the mercenary vultures out there he knows are waiting to pounce on him.
A hardened cynic about women then? No. My Alpha hero has a romantic streak which lives deep in the very core of his makeup. He wants to love and be loved – for himself. Some might call it his fatal flaw, because when that one particular woman does come along and breaks through the emotional protection he wears around his deeper feelings, he becomes as vulnerable and as unsure of himself as any man recognising that he’s falling deeply in love. He’s wary, suspicious. He does not want to be caught out and made a fool of by some feline vulture wearing an angel’s mask. So from the moment he meets her he’s fighting both her and himself. Hence the conflicts he has with himself and the heroine, hence the ups and downs in their relationship as they proceed towards the inevitable outcome.
The bottom line? My Alpha hero does not choose his life’s mate with his eyes or his libido. He chooses with his carefully guarded heart. And when he mates, he seriously mates for life. Michelle Reid

This is Luk, exactly. He’s successful, powerful, discerning. He’s used to women throwing themselves at him. He didn’t start off cynical, he became cynical, suspicious of motives, because of that. He fears falling in love and losing control, but he also longs for it, longs to find the woman worthy of his love. He will resist surrendering to this love when he meets her. His main turning point is that moment when he realises it is her he wants, more than anything else in the world. When he’s willing to open himself up to that vulnerability and potential loss of control. That’s why I loved the story where the hero goes to find the heroine at the end and kneels before her- the ultimate gesture of surrender.


 But all my heroes tend to be demanding (both in bed and out!). They know what they want (or think they do). They’ll do whatever they have to do to get it (from seduction, to a bit of light-hearted blackmail, to kidnapping) and they’ll be totally focussed on their goal (which is the heroine… what could be sexier than that, right). And like all great alphas they’re also protective, nurturing and honourable. To which you’re probably saying, ‘hey, hang on a mo, how can a guy be honourable and then blackmail someone?’
The answer is simple, they have to believe in their heart of hearts it’s the right thing to do. So here’s a top tip, when writing an alpha hero (or any hero) if he’s going to do something outrageous give him a very good motivation for doing it – so he can defend his behaviour to himself, and the heroine and the reader. Of course, that doesn’t mean the heroine’s going to buy it (and in my books they frequently don’t), but that’s all part of the delicious conflict you want to get steaming between these two.
You have to fall in love with this guy – and the reader has to fall for him too. So don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that because he’s an alpha guy he can’t have a sense of humour, or be a fantastic cook, or be kind to children and puppies. Don’t let his alpha-ness limit you in creating your hero… Use it to make him that extra bit more gorgeous and larger than life, because let’s face it these are romantic fantasies – and the more romantic the better. Heidi Rice

So for Luk, this is about how he justifies his choices. He is doing what is right for everyone. But he does also have to be fall-in-lovable. I think with Luk it will be how he is with his nephews and nieces that shows his human side. Ack, just had a totally outrageous idea! Does Emma refuse to go and Luk kidnaps her, explaining that it’s a perfectly acceptable way of doing things in Melusia, and it’s for her own good and the good of the country? Whoooee! That would be fun! Wonder if two kidnaps would be a bit much? It could be quite funny really, when he is outraged that someone else would do exactly what he did in the first place. Hmm, I like the idea!


 He’s definitely on his way to success, if not already there; he can see the big picture rather than worrying about tiny details (though if you quiz him, you’ll discover he has a handle on absolutely everything). He works hard (mine have workaholic tendencies); he also plays hard (which is how come my current Modern Heat duet is called ‘To Tame a Playboy’). He’s charming and approachable, wants someone who’ll be his equal, and is quite likely to make an outrageous bet with the heroine. He cares about his family and will put them first. But getting him to admit to loving the heroine… that’s where the she’s going to have a hard time. He’s be completely up front right at the start and say he doesn’t believe in love, doesn’t do love, and he’ll offer her an affair with very defined limits. But when he falls, he falls hard. And my favourite bit is when a Modern Heat alpha finally admits he loves the heroine – because he’ll do it with style! Kate Hardy
Okay, the bit that really caught my eye is the italicised part. Maybe this is the piece I am missing about Luk. He doesn’t want to be Prince, so he finds Emma and installs her as Princess. So now he can go back to his old life right? No, cos then she’s kidnapped and he has to rescue her. Now can he go back to his old life? No, cos unless he marries her she can’t be Princess, which means he has to be Prince anyway. So her agrees to the marriage of convenience, she can be Princess, and he can go back to his old life, right? No, cos now he’s fallen in love. He wants it all now, his old life and Emma. Except he can’t have both. Emma has to choose. He has to choose.
Why doesn’t he “do” love? No massive tragedy. He grew up in a happy and loving family. His sisters are all happily married. But he’s been burned by too many golddiggers after his money. He’s seen friends make stupid choices over love, give up their own ambitions. Love is fine for other people, but not for him.


 An alpha male, to me, is a take-charge kind of guy. He’s powerful—maybe it’s because he’s wealthy or physically strong, but more often in my books it’s because he’s very talented, very intelligent, very competent. He’s a natural leader, the centre of everything, fiercely protective of his world. He often finds it difficult to trust, because that implies losing control in some way. I’ll put an alpha in a situation that’s completely new to him, and his usual straightforward “my way or the highway” of dealing with things just doesn’t work. My alpha heroes’ journey is always to understand what true power is—the cooperative power of trust, and the authentic power of self-understanding. Julie Cohen
This is more reinforcement of what I’d already been thinking- Luk’s central journey and the source of his internal conflict will be learning to trust, learning how to feel safe when he isn’t in control of every aspect of the situation.


 Above all, he’s always a hero even if it takes a story arc to get him through his reluctance to the point where he’s willing to make sacrifices or take risks for the sake of the heroine or a larger cause. Anna Campbell
Again, taking risks, the greatest risk of all, opening his heart and risking rejection.


 The Liz Fielding Alpha hero is strong, resourceful, the man who others will turn to in times of crisis. Arrogance may hide mental and physical scars but while he may seem distant, apart from other men, he will risk his own life without hesitation to save another. He will sacrifice his own happiness for those he loves. He will demand honour and courage to match his own from the woman he chooses to share his life, but he will be tender, loyal to death. For me a man is closest to being the perfect Alpha when he mirrors the attributes of the leader of the wolf pack. He is the hunter, lover, father, protector. The Alpha male makes the perfect Romance hero. And the perfect Romance heroine will match him for courage, honour and passion every step of the way. Liz Fielding
I think for Luk becoming this hero is his emotional journey. This is the man he is at the end of the book, but at the start his motivations are more selfish, he is unwilling to sacrifice his happiness. But Emma’s “courage, honour and passion” challenge him into becoming the fullness of who he can be.


 An alpha is a leader. He doesn’t wait for things to happen, he MAKES THINGS HAPPEN. Even if he makes a bad decision – he’ll be committed to it 100%.
Alphas might have that little bit of an edge that makes them seem sometimes hard or ruthless, but that is because they make decisions and stick to them.
Alpha heroes are also aspirational. They are always looking forward to the next achievement or opportunity. They are successful because they are driven. It is not enough to rest on their laurels. And this doesn’t have to be financial gain either. But they are forward thinkers. They are proactive.
Alphas live life on their own terms. It makes them exciting, powerful personalities.
Alphas don’t like to show their vulnerabilities, which is why when they finally do reveal their “scars” to the heroine, it has such an impact. Those vulnerabilities might simply be their feelings for the heroine, or they can be something more entirely. Donna Alward

Luk does decide on his course of action, and follow through totally. He doesn’t sit back and relax with what he has achieved, he is looking for more. And the bit about the vulnerabilities- that is exactly it. For Luk, letting Emma know how he feels is the biggest vulnerability of all.


 That sense of honour goes with pride – and maybe arrogance – but then these men have a lot to be proud about and they will fight to the death to defend it. Their attraction for the heroine may often seem to threaten that honour – but the good news for the heroine is that he’ll fight to the death for her too. Louise Allen
Luk’s self-image is very much that of the lone wolf. Why is that? Was it a defensive mechanism growing up the only boy amongst all those girls? I think perhaps his father was loving, but retreated to his books, leaving Luk without a real male role model. So falling in love with Emma threatens that completely. He is already in love with her when he proposes the marriage of convenience, but he won’t admit that.


 For me this means: a leader who cares about his men, a leader who has integrity, a leader who is strong and tough because he has to be. He has strength of will. He is willing to make the hard decisions and does not shirk from his responsibility. This is a man who understands there are lines which you do not cross. He lives by a code. But he is also someone who does not automatically give his respect. It has to be earned. And above, he requires a strong mate. Michelle Styles
Luk has integrity and honour, but is not fully ready to take on responsibility for others at the start of the story. By gaining respect for Emma, he learns to be more responsible, just as Emma learns to be lighter and more joyful. She needs to be a strong worthy mate for this man.



Well, that’s a lot of extra insight into my hero! And there are still more posts to come in that series. I love the generosity of published romance writers in sharing information and insight like that! Thank you!


2 Responses to “More on the Alpha hero”

  1. I love this phrasing: “must be fall-in-lovable” Ha! Wonderful! and too true.

    What’s up with your word count bar? It’s gone back down to zero. You haven’t scraped it only to start again, have you?

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    LOL, that’s exactly what I did!

    I’mm going to add another post about this I think rather than put it in replies.

    How are things going for you? Must get over to your blog and catch up!

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