Saturday, May 23, 2009

Alphas and Assholes

As a reader, I've always enjoyed strong dominant heroes. (I also enjoy strong dominant kickass heroines but that’s a blog for another day.)

I love reading about a hero who’ll do anything to keep his heroine safe, who looses his normal logic center to wrap his arms around his lady and kiss her brainless. But I’ve also put away a book where the guy is so predominantly alpha that I got mad at the heroine for putting up with such a dolt.

Maybe he would have redeemed himself at the end of the book. Maybe the heroine would finally smack him upside the head and make him see that he can’t have his way all the time, that she needs to do things her way, even if it means putting herself into a situation he doesn’t like. The tension in this book was amazing – but I could only get to the middle before putting the story away muttering something about damn stubborn males. And I love damned stubborn males! I just couldn't take him anymore.

Where’s the line that divides Alphas from Assholes? How much are you willing to put up with an alpha hero before wanting to smack an innocent member of the male species in the nearest proximity?

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Keira of LoveRomancePassion said...

I have to say the line is probably where you drew it. I like alphas, but at some point enough is enough. He has to give at some point.

A.M. Hartnett said...

For me the alpha male can get away with anything as long as he's paired with precisely the right heroine. A bad, doorstopper heroine is alpha male cancer.

Keta Diablo said...

Interesting question and dilemma. For me, whether reading or writing, I happen to like male and female characters who are alpha and come with lots of warts and flaws. I admit that some reviewers have said "Keta Diablo likes to write the "politically incorrect" characters, although have awarded me high marks. I take the comment as a compliment. Characters can be overbearing, even disliked in books, but the key is "redeeming" them at some time in the book. If you can turn a reader from hating him to wanting to marry him, you've accomplished your goal.

Thanks for the post.

Keta Diablo

Julia Barrett said...

I love a good, strong alpha male, but he better be with a strong female too! And he better not demean her in any way!

Fiona Jayde said...

Hi Keira - I totally agree :)

A.M. - ditto - can't handle doormat heroines. Plus someone weak really does accentuate the "jerkiness" don't you think?

Hiya Keta - really good way of looking at it:) I think the key here is redeeming the characters throughout the book - so that the reader doesn't do as I did - get so frustrated that the upcoming redemption no longer matters...

Hey Julia! I've actually had a "space opera" romance where the hero verbally demeaned a heroine a tiny bit... He had a reason for it (he had evidence that she betrayed him to bad guys who nearly had him killed) but I had a number of readers and reviewers reacting to it...


beth kery said...

Hi Fi! I think there's some commonalities to what people like, but there's some gray area too. As a writer, I've learned that one reader is annoyed by a hero, while another thinks the same guy is a dream come true.
It can be a bit tricky navigating that gray area. :)

Angelia Sparrow said...

The line between alpha and asshole is the line between leader and dictator. Or between good top and abuser.

A good leader takes input from the people he leads and considers it before making a decision. But ultimately HE makes the decision.

A dictator listens to no one and does as he thinks best without considering how it will harm anyone around him.

An alpha male, a good top, is a leader. An asshole is a dictator, an abuser.

In my recent reading, I liked Gideon in the Raintree series. Protective and alpha. His older brother, even more alpha Dante, fell into the asshole category by mind-raping a woman he'd barely met--forcing her to blend her psychic powers with his to save their lives and those of hundreds of other people. Justified and necessary, yes. But he never apologized for it. He just told her to quit calling it rape.

I like more beta heroes. Even most of my alphas are pretty beta. My alpha werewolf is an architect who plays computer simulations. His beta is an English prof who specializes in New England Transcendentalists. But, when it comes to protecting his pack, Paul is as alpha as they come.

Then again, I've written a few unrepentant alphas. They require hero/ines as strong and eager as they are, lest they overwhelm. Adrenaline junky flying aces who seek out new thrills when the war is over, aging gunslingers, stagecoach outriders (in space). I keep them leaders, not abusers.

Amber Skyze said...

Nothing like a strong alpha male paired with a strong heroine. But if he's too much an asshole to the heroine he'd better have good reasons to keep me reading. :)

Belinda McBride said...

A great topic, and one I struggle with as a reader and writer. There are authors skilled enough to take a bastard and make him a credible and amusing hero. Then there are the books that I struggle through, hating the alpha.

Since I'm from an animal professional background, I really struggled the the term "alpha" in the beginning, because truthfully, in romance, the term is misleading. There are no lone wolf alphas. An alpha is a protector, leader, keeper of the peace and decision-maker. I like my alpha dog/bitch much better than a lot of the alpha heroes I read about.