All Kinds of Alphas: The A to Z’s of Alpha Heroes (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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Alpha Hero

We have a guest blogger here today, the very talented Jennifer Dorough (writing erotic romance as Sayde Grace).  She will be discussing what she got out of the “A to Z’s of Alpha Heroes” Workshop given during RWA’s 2010 conference.  Without further ado:

During this workshop authors Jami Alden, Bella Andre, and Monica McCarty presented attendees with the definition of an Alpha hero, common traits, the allure, and examples of prototypical and non-typical alpha heroes.

An alpha hero by definition is a individual who takes control, who stands out in a crowd for being powerful physically and emotionally.

Common traits of an Alpha hero include being physically strong. These heroes tend to have an occupation, which commands respect such as a police officer, firefighter, military or other dangerous occupations. An alpha has a set of strong core values, whether this core is morally “correct” or not they tend to stick to what they believe in regardless of others opinion.

When writing an alpha hero one must look at why they want to write an alpha. What is the allure of that character to you as a reader?

When dealing with prototypical alpha you normally have six types of alphas and some may cross into other categories. The six are the Tough/Warrior Alpha, Chief Alpha, “Extreme” Alpha, Bad Boy Alpha, Wounded Alpha, and Swashbuckling Alpha.

  • The Tough/Warrior Alpha

May be characters such as Russell Crow’s character from Gladiator, Eric Bana as Hector in Troy, Clint Eastwood. All of these characters have a strong core value system and they are fighters for what they believe in.

  • Chief Alphas

May be characters such as Clive Owen as King Arthur in King Arthur, Jack on Lost, and again Russell Crow in Gladiator. These characters are leaders of strong men/women and they not only fight for what they believe in but for the welfare of others.

  • Extreme” Alphas

What we would see as hollow shells, these characters are straight-laced fighters. Examples would be characters in black operations, navy seals, undercover agents, spies, etc. They put on a game face and keep it that way. Lora Leigh writes amazing extreme alphas.

  • Bad Boy Alphas

We love them no matter how bad, even if these characters can be somewhat morally questionable. These characters still have a strong set of core values, although in most cases they will be slightly different than those core values of the chief alpha’s or the warriors. These alphas may be characters such as Sawyer from Lost, Hans Solo in Star Wars, or Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers.

  • Wounded Alphas

Characters whose souls are tormented, or have lost souls. Characters that have lost a part of themselves and can’t quite move on. Some examples are Lestat by Ann Rice, Bill from Charlaine Harris, Max (who also falls under bad boy and chief alpha) from Nancy Gideon’s Masked by Moonlight.

And the last category for Prototypical Alpha’s is…

  • Swashbuckling Alphas

These characters are fearless, thrill seeking, rogues. Indiana Jones, need I say more??

As to Non-Typical Alphas these characters may be men such as McGuyver who is the geekish man but still oh so sexy. A gentle alpha like superman, Magnum PI, Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan.

  • Things to remember/use when writing Alphas:

Getting inside his head. Remember to use how men talk, not how women believe they should talk.

How do they relate to each other? Sizing each other up.

How much introspection guys really have.

Remember how a man feels about feelings, how much he’s going to think about those feelings or talk about them.

Think about what genres are a good fit for alpha heroes.

And never forget that the alpha has to have a heroine who is worth him. Why should a great character fall in love and have this one person be his everything? My personal favorite is Nancy Gideon’s CeeCee and Max relationship in her Moonlight series. The characters are so well written in all respects, especially when it comes to being worth each other.

The workshop was only an hour long so we didn’t get to talk a lot more about each of the Alpha categories, but the worksheet used for this workshop should be on the RWA website, and a recording of the entire workshop can be purchased online. Thank you for having me blog today. The presenters of this workshop again were Jami Alden, Bella Andre, and Monica McCarty.

Thanks again for allowing me to relate the wonderful information I learned at this workshop.

Jennifer Dorough writing erotic romance as Sayde Grace. Riding Double is now available and The Harder They Buck will be released October 22, 2010 through The Wild Rose Press. For more information about Sayde please visit or follow her on twitter

Thanks to Jennifer Dorough aka Sayde Grace for the excellent post on Alpha Heroes. 

Please join me on Wednesday for a discussion on Building Theme.


12 thoughts on “All Kinds of Alphas: The A to Z’s of Alpha Heroes (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

    rosalielario responded:
    October 11, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Great posts, Jenn! Thanks for that.

    My favorite alphas are the bad boy alphas (though I don’t love them so much in real life as in the stories; that whole fantasy vs. reality thing). Coming in a close second are the swashbuckling alphas (Indiana Jones, Captain Jack Sparrow anyone?)

    When I first started writing I had difficulty writing from the male POV. I have a husband and son, but I grew up in a family of mostly women, so it was difficult for me to make the male characters believable. But I found that once I studied male characters on television, the dialogue came more naturally. My favorite alphas on t.v. (and I would consider them bad boy alphas) are Dean and Sam from Supernatural. Yuuummmy…and I love the way they interact with each other!

      Sayde Grace said:
      October 11, 2010 at 10:24 am

      Thanks so much for having me here! I’m glad I could share some of the wonderful information I gathered from the conference!

    Casey Crow said:
    October 11, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Great post Sayde! Thank you for sharing what you learned. I never thought to categorize Alphas, as I tend to combine elements of them, but this guideline will be super helpful in better defining my hero. Thanks!

      Sayde Grace said:
      October 11, 2010 at 10:23 am

      Hi Casey! It was pretty interesting the way the ladies presenting the workshop broke it down into categories. I never would have thought to do it either but I gotta admit, seeing it like this I realize most of characters are Chief Alphas. But I do so LOVE the Bad Boy ones!!

    sfcatty said:
    October 11, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Good post, Sayde- lots of good info. Jillian

      SaydeGrace said:
      October 11, 2010 at 1:02 pm

      Yeah it was great workshop! I think though you got a ton of wonderful info from the pro retreat during the time I went to this one!

    Darcy said:
    October 11, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to make it to this workshop in Orlando, but the handout has been extremely helpful! My favorite Alphas are definitely the Bad Boy Alphas. Sawyer on Lost, yummeh!

      SaydeGrace said:
      October 12, 2010 at 11:57 am

      The authors did a great job presenting this workshop and making it come alive but the handout is just what we covered so keep it handy as it has great info! And yeah Sawyer is HOT!

    Tracey Livesay said:
    October 12, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Great post, Sayde. And it was a great topic for a workshop. It’s nice we’re getting back to Alphas. They had such a bad rep a few years ago. I think everyone kept picturing the Alpha assholes from the early 80s presents. I think it also helps that authors are writing more from the male POV, so the reader understands his motivations, even when his actions appear harsh.
    I agree with Darcy. Sawyer from Lost. And although I’ve always found him sexy, there is nothing like a bad boy who’s fallen in love and watching him with Juliet

      SaydeGrace said:
      October 12, 2010 at 11:59 am

      Thats so funny that you mention that! One of the authors admitted to LOVING those alpha assholes! She said she loved them but wanted to expand and improve them 🙂 I think she did great! And I love being in hte Male POV, scary yet interesting 🙂 Oh Sawyer!!

    Caroline Clemmons said:
    October 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Loved your post and the comments. I think a nice cross between alpha and beta–the new term gamma–is my favorite.

      Sayde Grace said:
      October 12, 2010 at 3:30 pm

      It was a great workshop and I’m very glad I was able to attend it. I love cross over alphas!!

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