Writing The Alpha Male

This post is predominantly for romance writers, but regardless of your genre, I hope you'll get something out of it! Thanks for all the comments lately and the recent follows. It's a lot more fun writing blogs when you know someone is reading. :)

What do you think of when I say "alpha male?"

Because what I think is, "Gag me. This isn't 1945." Alright, alright--that's a little harsh. But I have this sensitivity toward the demeaning of women's God-given roles, particularly the beautiful strength of a nurturing heart, and this is something close to my heart.

But last weekend, my husband and I watched Thor. And let's just say I had a change of heart.

Helllloooooo, alpha male.

Could be that I have a weakness for Norwegians, but really, I think it's more than that. I'm watching this movie that I expected to only-kind-of like, and falling in love with Thor's character. If you haven't seen it yet, it's at Redbox now. Go watch it and consider it homework.

So I'm sitting there, thinking to myself, what is it about this guy that I like so much? Why is his arrogance not bothering me at all? And how can I write characters who readers will love so much? Here are a few things I came up with. Please keep in mind that these are generalizations that will not apply to every character, every situation, or every reader. They're just helpful guidelines.

1) Women like a man who can take care of them. But they also want to have their own hero moment. That's why so many alpha male characters are strong, witty, or otherwise very gifted at something. A dashing physique is always a win, but think about characters like old-school Rick Castle (early episodes)--they show competence through intellect. Another character who comes to mind is McGarrett from the new Hawaii Five O. Who doesn't want a guy like that around? Be sure the heroine gets her own moment in the spotlight, too. We like a woman who's brave. She might not be fighting off dragons, but maybe she's got to make a tough choice by sacrificing something important to her. It helps if she's choosing the protection the hero is offering rather than having it dumped upon her. (Having a persistent hero wooing the heroine also works well because you're showing not only the hero's confidence, but also the heroine's own spunk.)

2) Women like a man with confidence. Sometimes this will include arrogance for an alpha male character, but you have to be careful that doesn't go too far. A little pride is charming so long as it's channelled in the right place. Think of Mr. Darcy. That's part of the reason we all love him. But if the arrogance is causing your hero to be demeaning toward your heroine, that's going to become a problem.

3) Women like a man who's suave. Think Cary Grant. The guy from Footloose. We like a man who knows how to compliment us. Awkward flirting might be cute in real life, but it's not cute in novels. At least, not more than once or twice. At heart, your hero's got to find his charm. Readers want to imagine themselves with this guy.

4) Women like a good leader. I honestly think this stems back to an innate desire for the marriage relationship to parallel the relationship with Christ and the church. So if you're thinking about how you can go about making your hero a good leader, look to God. Keep in mind your hero won't be perfect, though... he needs flaws. But he should have the capability of handling situations well. Once again, be careful you don't make your heroine look stupid in the process. You want these qualities of the hero to compliment the heroine, rather than stomping her down.

5) Women like a man who's romantic and sensitive under it all. The best alpha males are the ones who have a sensitive side, because we as women really like to see a tough, bad boy male character open up. It's a challenge to us. So first create the hard shell, and then show why it's there... what's the soft spot? The contrast this will have with the typical alpha male characteristics will help with sparks-fly romance.

I hope these tips have helped you think about ways to create that masculine charm in your male characters. Can you think of anything else to add to the list? Who are some of your favorite alpha males? Why?

Photos from,–%C2%A0hollywood%C2%A0-zero-audience-even-less/thor-movie-500x333/


  1. Ash- this post made me giggle, mostly because I thought Thor was a half-good attempt at what could have been a good story, but all the flaws in it were made up by Chris Hemsworth as Thor. :) He's perfect in that role--even more so in The Avengers. My hubby and I had a conversation yesterday about why Australia tends to send out "beefcake" actors. I am married to a movie-loving Superhero fan, so this was a normal conversation for us.

    Some women also like a man with comedic timing. Thor has that. He's got a good sense of humor (doubly evidenced in The Avengers.) Your tips here are great! Thanks for posting!

  2. Ha! Jennifer, so true! My husband and I have similar conversations. He asked me who I thought was more attractive, Captain America or Thor. I said Thor, no question!

    Great point about the comedic timing! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hey, my hubby watched Thor this week, too! But...I didn't watch with him. Maybe I should check it out :)

    You made some great points about the alpha-male. Perfect, actually, since I write romance. I agree completely :) Oh, but I also like a lead character who can make mistakes but learn and grow and own up to them later on.

  4. GREAT addition, Cindy! One of the things I had planned to mention about Thor is that in the beginning of the movie, he is very cocky about being the future king, and he thinks he knows everything. But somehow, this error is still endearing (probably because, as Jenn said, it's Chris Hemsworth--Ha!). I think it's so important to give our characters flaws, but also to make even the flaws likable in the way the audience identifies with them. Thanks for sharing that. And you should definitely watch it with him next time! I didn't think I would like it, but Matt had already seen it and really wanted me to give it a try... I was really surprised!

  5. Haha, I had the exact same, "I'll probably only kinda like this" thought going into Thor. And then Chris Hemsworth walked onto the screen. :) Love!

    Last year at ACFW I had a paid critique with one of my author faves and she encouraged me to not be afraid of giving my hero an alpha male boost. In my fear of writing him too arrogantly, I'd crept a little too close to emasculating him. Hehehe...but yeah, I love how you pointed out the good things about alpha males, the things we love. :)

  6. Thanks Melissa! Such a pleasure that you came by to chat today! Are you coming to ACFW again this year?

  7. Hellllloooo, Thor! sigh.....

    I love alpha males. I think that is why I'm drawn to medieval stories so much. ;) But alas...medieval is not selling in CBA, so I'm trying to write a Regency. Ha!

  8. At least Regency has better clothes! ;)