My problem isn’t that I don’t like alpha heroes. I love them—when somebody else writes them. The problem arises when I try to write one myself.
Why should that be a problem, you ask. There’s room in our genre for all types of heroes: alpha, beta, and everything in between. Writers are free to create whatever character best fits each individual story.
So why do I struggle? Because some stories, like the one I’m working on now, scream out for an alpha hero. Dominic “Nick” Rosetti, my hero in Boiling Point, is a former Detroit police detective who left the force after his partner died in a shootout. When the pair cornered an armed drug dealer in a blind alley, Nick hesitated a second too long, and the gunman fired first, killing Nick’s partner. With his confidence gutted by guilt, he moved to Chicago and became a P.I.
I have to write Nick as a tough guy, because he is. He carries a lot of emotional baggage he prefers to keep to himself. He’s used to taking charge without wasting time on explanation. He’s a man of few words. Yet I keep having to stop myself from writing him dialogue that sounds more like Nick Charles from The Thin Man movies than Nick Rosetti.
I think it’s because I love witty banter. Writing dialogue is my favorite part of any story. When my characters really get going, the air is thick with provocative statements and sharp retorts. I can’t seem to help myself. I’ve always been more attracted to intelligent wise guys than sullen tough guys. That’s how I ended up with OG. (Not to suggest he isn’t tough, but his wit attracted me first.) Most of the men I’ve met in real life who would fit the current fictional definition of alpha males are self-centered, arrogant jerks and not attractive to me at all.
That’s because fictional alpha heroes are just that—fictional—and because we write romance, they are creations of fantasy. Some authors are brilliant at bringing those fabulously unrealistic men to life. Sadly, although I love reading about them, I don’t seem to be much good at translating that sort of fantasy to the page. My heroes all end up being men I would actually enjoy spending time with. Hence, my struggle to bring proper balance to the character of Nick Rosetti.
Since passing the half-way point in the first draft of Boiling Point, I think I’m finally getting a handle on him. However, I’m afraid some of my favorite bits of his dialogue will end up on the chopping block when I go back to revise. Sigh. The sacrifices we authors make for our characters…