I want to write for Harlequin, but I’m worried that the heroes I like are more beta than alpha – I’m just not a fan of hard-hearted tycoons! How can I make this work?
What a great question! And we’ve got one for you to think about too – when you say ‘beta’, ask yourself what you actually mean. Do you mean a pushover, door-mouse hero? In which case, this could be a challenge – at Harlequin, we love heroes who are in command of their environment! But if you’re talking about a more emotionally available hero, well, who doesn’t love a hero who is actually open to love?! The trick there is to make sure he’s still going on an emotional journey of his own – overcoming, or learning something – before he can live happily ever after with the heroine. These days, an alpha hero doesn’t have to be a hard-hearted tycoon – they come in all shapes and guises! However, whether you are going for the out-and-out alpha, the 21st century man or even the boy next door, you need to keep in mind the qualities which have made the ever changing alpha male so enduring.
There is always a place for a variety of heroes within Harlequin, and it’s important to know that the definition of an alpha male will also depend on the series you are targeting. A Presents alpha male will vary in tone and execution from a single dad in Special Edition to a dreamy doc in Harlequin Medical Romance. No two heroes are ever the same. But what they all have in spades is the ability to sweep your heroine and your readers off their feet and be irresistible in every way!
The issue with the traditional beta males (by that I mean the ones who are soft, or, dare I say it, mousy) is that you set yourself more of a challenge to present a man who is strong enough to support a heroine through her own, and potentially dark conflict. We always talk about our stories being character and conflict-driven – both your hero and heroine will have their own set of obstacles to overcome as well as navigating their joint romantic journey. There is a lot going on! Therefore, your reader needs to believe from the outset that your hero has enough depth and strength to deal with his own demons as well as be the knight in shining armour for the heroine.
Heroines are continually evolving – these days, they are independent, strong, and often equal to the heroes, professionally and emotionally. If you have a really strong heroine, you need a hero who can match her, otherwise there is a chance that he won’t be deemed worthy of her love. He may be the strong and silent type, but make sure he’s never a walk-over. It’s all about the balance, and ensuring that his inner strength continues to shine through.
Of course, your hero doesn’t have to be all arrogance, wrapped up in a sleek and tailored suit. He can be kind and gentle too. It’s interesting to think about how the alpha male is always being reinvented. Take James Bond for example. Each different Bond has embodied a different type of alpha. Whether it is Sean Connery and his subtle yet insatiable appetite for seduction and danger, to Daniel Craig’s more tortured and dark Bond, we never lose sight of the fact he defines an alpha male. That is because he’s dominant, proud and commanding and with a strong (if sometimes deeply buried!) moral code – for any Bonds of the future, these are qualities that will endure. So rather than worrying about alpha vs. beta, ask yourself which type of Alpha do you want to write?
Lastly, everybody loves a happy ending – and a satisfying one. Seeing a hero tamed/ healed/ redeemed by the heroine’s love provides a satisfying journey with the ultimate fairytale ending – a theme which will never get old. But to create an ending which linger long after the last page, you needed an unforgettable hero – and one which has left an impression and really taken control of your book and the romance.
Keep writing the types of heroes you love, but never forget what makes an alpha hero so enduring, and adored.
Megan & the SYTYCW Editors