In honor of our Blogiversary, Alexandra Richland (author of Starlight, Gilded Cage and Frontline) has drafted two guest posts related to a subject near and dear to a reader’s heart – the Alpha Male.
The first installment discussed the traits that make the Alpha Male such an attractive and desirable character. If you missed that post, you can read it here.
This second installment discusses the paths Alpha Males follow – the heroic and the anti-heroic.
Many thanks to Alexandra for her insights and for providing well-developed examples in the gorgeous forms of Trenton Merrick, the Alpha Male in her novel Frontline and Aidan Evans, the Alpha Male in her story, Starlight.
You can find Alex on twitter here,
Alpha Males Part 2:
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE ALPHA
Alpha males take over a story in two ways: either with a confident strut onto the page, or as only a dim outline in a shadowy corner we have to blink between the lines to see.
I’m fascinated by both types because each one pops open a carrying case of characteristics that can fire up any plot. Put simply, the alpha male fits into a heroic or antiheroic role. Either role possesses an array of different strengths, yet the exact same weakness, which is encompassed in the desire for the love of a certain woman.
I chose to write two novels examining the alpha male from both of these perspectives: the hero (Trenton Merrick in Frontline) and the antihero (Aidan Evans in The Starlight Trilogy). I found myself basing both characters on different archetypes I admired, most especially from films that have interested me for years.
I was most intrigued to write Starlight’s Aidan Evans due to my love of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. I based a lot of who Aidan is on actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando: two grungy outcasts amongst Hollywood’s glitzy elite, whose epicenters—the living, breathing soul of their art—was nonconformity. You never saw them dressed in suits with fancy fedoras covering a coiffed hairdo. Their likability stemmed from their everyday personas—worn jeans, scuffed overcoats, sweat stained, cotton T-shirts, ruffian accents, and blue collar lifestyles.
The struggles of the characters they portrayed existed as much on the outside as inside. They grappled with the challenges of life just like the rest of us do, with two feet over the side of the bed once the sun rose high enough in the sky to signal the beginning of a new day. But a different dimension exists in Aidan’s struggle. It’s not just the way he positions himself as a badass who constantly wages a battle of nonconformity against a society he doesn’t seem to jive with. It’s his internal battle against demons from his past that provides the fundamental flaw he can’t correct. He doesn’t possess the strength to face the challenge head-on, so he blankets his pain with self-imposed isolation, cigarettes, and stonewalls anyone who comes near with his abrasive personality. These imperfections and our willingness to sympathize with him form the roots of his anti-heroism.
Now enter Elizabeth Sutton: his dream girl and only chance at redemption.
On the opposite side of the stage, bathed in a bright spotlight, stands a gentleman gleaming in designer clothes. His haircut costs more than the monthly lease on our hatchbacks, and speaking of cars, keys to a cavalcade of luxury vehicles, from Mercedes to Bugattis overflow from his pockets. He’s the embodiment of the old adage: the men want to be him and the women want to be with him. One thing you won’t see is any sign of weakness. He’s our hero, and heroes never falter. When they’re challenged, they rise to it and fight until they win.
I based Trenton Merrick on a host of different hero archetypes found in classic film all the way up to recent blockbusters, starting with charming studs like Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Sean Connery as James Bond, culminating somewhere around the time George Clooney tossed his ER scrubs in the trash and set out to own Hollywood with a flirtatious smirk and brown-eyed stare.
As a reader, the attractive characteristics of the hero are immediately obvious. But what’s even more interesting is what hides beneath such a carefully groomed exterior. And who, or what, could unlock such a man’s secrets? The shape of that key stands five feet, five inches tall and dresses in ill-fitting nursing scrubs. Her name is Sara Peters.
The heroic and antiheroic crossroads of the alpha male intersect directly at the point labeled Women. But not just any woman fills this role. She’s never found in the army of groupies parading behind either alpha, offering him everything she thinks he wants. The special woman that steals an alpha’s heart doesn’t immediately understand his attraction to her. Further, his status—Aidan as an outcast among his Hollywood peers, or Trenton’s reputation as a womanizing playboy billionaire who gets special treatment at the hospital just because of the size of his bank account—serves as a source of trepidation for these women initially.
When the alphas encounter their women, we start to see a different side of them altogether. Aidan’s abrasiveness softens. Trenton’s unshakable confidence loses its balance. It doesn’t matter what form the obstacles take between them and the true love they desire with these women, either overcoming a past psychological trauma or taking on Russian terrorists. In the end, whether we root for them from a sympathetic or fascinated point of view, both hero and antihero alphas are up for the challenge because the women are worth it, and should they succeed, their lives will be all the better for it. So will our reading experience.
Stay tuned for a giveaway from Alex.