Jennifer's Journal


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Search of a True Hero

Alpha males, we all know and love them. They are the stock heroes of thousands of romance novels and the secret relish of millions of women. We thrill to their strength, their daring, their ability to dominate those around them and bend the rules to suit themselves. We enjoy their limitless capacity for surmounting every difficulty, defeating every enemy. This preference is genetically programmed in us as females, for it represents protection for our offspring.

And yet the idea can be taken too far. No one really likes a hero who is too controlling or cruel to the point of pain. A hero who overrides the heroine’s will with too much force makes us uneasy. We can’t believe this man cares about her if he refuses to allow her any degree of choice. We have difficulty identifying with a heroine who stands for such treatment—no matter how good the guy may be in bed. When the heroine does an about-face at the end of 200 or 400 pages and decides she adores the son-of-a-gun instead of despising him, we are unconvinced. And that’s if the book hasn’t already bounced off the wall.

Where do we draw the line? What makes one dominant hero acceptable and not another? What turns one book with such a man into a treasure and another into a paper-and-glue missile?

he difference is in how the character is formed, the way he’s created by the author.

A hero, no matter how mentally and physically superior, should always be shown as multi-facted, with depth of emotion to equal his strength. He should care so deeply about one particular thing that it becomes his greatest weakness. Personally, I love it when this weakness is the heroine, but it can also be a child, father, mother or sibling; his clan, birthplace, home area or country. Added to this, an alpha hero may be given an internal code which forces him to act against his best interests, causes him to struggle with moral questions and decisions which threaten his control. He can have doubts and fears, though he may conceal their existence. His supremacy can actually be enhanced by his ability to rise above his problems with intelligence and internal fortitude instead of simply bludgeoning his way through them. His tremendous power can be used for its true purpose of protection rather than subjection.

In short, he can be created as a hero with whom a woman can safely fall in love.

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