Writing the alpha male

Writing the alpha male

Part two of a series on the alpha male, and how writers can get it wrong.  In part 1 I talked about how the alpha male behaves.  In this post I want to talk about how bad it can be when you get it wrong.

Last night I purchased a self-published book from Amazon. The premise was interesting, and even though the preview was a little choppy the price was right and I liked the idea enough to download it anyway.

The book was so bad I ended up deleting it from my Kindle. It’s sitting in my archived items now, and if I could get rid of it altogether I would.

What made it so bad?

The love interest in the story was truly repulsive. The author had tried to write someone strong and protective. Instead she gave us a domineering, arrogant tyrant who had no respect for the other characters at all.

Worse, I could see from the way she wrote that she thought she was giving us an alpha male.

If you haven’t already done so, read Angela Knight’s The Care and Writing of Alpha Males. As well as being an excellent article all round, she makes some valid points about the alpha males of old who were actually the villains of the story, even when they were the hero.

That’s what the author of the story I read last night had created. A villain, even though she didn’t realise it.

It was as if she had taken a list of alpha qualities that and checked them off.

  • Alpha male is decisive. So, alpha male must make the decisions. Always. Even if the love interest has already made a sensible decision. Alpha overrides it with a stupider one of his own because it’s his decision and he decides.
  • Alpha male protects. Love interest is hospitalised with what turns out to be a stress-related ulcer. Afterwards, alpha won’t let love interest do anything (and I mean anything) because she’s just come out of hospital. Even though love interest has had ulcer for months (see money problems, below) and has been doing fine without alpha’s help all this time.
  • Alpha male is rich. The love interest has money problems. Alpha male, naturally, throws money around to solve it. This is a deus ex machina for me, anyway. Don’t we all wish someone rich would come along and save us? But it wasn’t so much the doing it, as how he did it. You have to read to book to see how repulsively it was done. All I can say is if someone walked out on me four years ago, left me to run a business on my own and then came back four years later when I had practically bankrupted the business paying his grandfather’s medical bills and then takes the business out of my hands and runs it himself because he has ‘saved’ it by paying off the debts, I’m not going to stand by meekly and say, “Thank you,” like the love interest did.

Worst of all was the way the character didn’t run true to himself. He had all the characteristics of the alpha male but nothing to bind it together, and without anything to bind it, his behaviour was simply obnoxious, overbearing and totally unjustified.  Not to mention erratic, because it didn’t gel with his behaviour outside these ‘alpha’ scenes.

I mentioned at the start that the book was self-published.  I think that if it had been through a proper editing process, or even a better critiqing process, many of these problems would have disappeared before it went up.

I know from my own experience that when you write you cannot always see how bad a character comes across to other readers.  The trouble with the alpha male is that they’re difficult to write anyway because you do have to tread that

… fine line between confidence and arrogance, protectiveness and condescension.
The Care and Writing of Alpha Males, Angela Knight

And to quote Angela Knight again

…no character can make you slam a book against a wall quicker than an alpha male gone bad.
The Care and Writing of Alpha Males, Angela Knight

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