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Advice from the Archives: How to Write an Alpha Heroine

In today’s archive, we bring you a post originally published during Dare Week in 2018 to introduce Harlequin Dare. This advice that was originally written to help writers understand the Dare heroine, but it can apply to any series. Here are our top tips on how to write a bold, daring heroine!

By Katie Gowrie

Romance is continually changing to reflect a changing world, and as women’s role in society changes, so does the romance heroine. We’ve been seeing powerful women in romance for decades now. But with Harlequin Dare, we’re not just encouraging you to write strong, independent heroines—it’s a requirement!

An alpha heroine is part of what defines a Dare story. You know why we love a smart, savvy heroine; here’s our top tips on how you can create a bold and balanced heroine that could work for any series!

She’s a go-getter

Knowing what she wants is important for any heroine, as is her resolve to go after it. For a Dare heroine, that sense of unwavering perseverance is part of what makes her fearless. For many of our titles, we see the heroines’ determination portrayed in the work world—spunky entrepreneurs trying to prove themselves or tenacious businesswomen rising up the corporate ladder. But that’s not a rule, and your heroine’s boldness can be shown in any way. What does she want? How will she get it, or if she has already, how will she keep it? Now, give us the gumption!

She’s sexually empowered

Dare heroines are fun and fearless women who take matters into their own hands—including their pleasure! That’s not to say she must be sexually uninhibited from the start, but consider showing us how she’s comfortable in her own skin, how she’s aware of and open to her own desires. She needn’t be a master in the bedroom (though, she certainly can be!), but perhaps she grows in confidence with her partner by the end of the story.

Vulnerability goes a long way

Romance heroines are flawed, like people are. As with any story, we need to see the heroine grow and change. She may be powerful and confident in who she is, but that doesn’t make opening herself up to love any easier. The heroine’s backstory should give us insight about who she is deep down, so we can better understand her emotional journey with the hero. A heroine who is flawed, recognizes it and grows is empowered in an important way.

She’s an equal who commands respect

Why should alpha heroes have all the power? We want heroines who are an even match with their partner—that means having some alpha traits of her own. Her control, skills and intelligence should command respect, not only from the alpha but from those around her. Have fun showcasing the balance in power throughout your story, where both partners give and take. You can explore situations of shifting power dynamics between your hero and heroine in all kinds of situations, boardroom- or bedroom-related.

She’s not threatened by the women around her

Your heroine doesn’t have to be the only bold, independent woman in the book. Don’t we all love a romance that’s rich with strong women, the way life is? Strength takes shape in different ways; how does your heroine recognize and celebrate this trait in other women?

These are just guidelines on how you might create your alpha heroine, but as we all know, there’s no cookie-cutter way to write a strong heroine; we’re open to seeing your take on it in your submissions. Above all, remember to have fun and write the heroines you want to read!