Friday, May 15, 2009

All About Alphas 22 - Questions and Answers

Sorry to have been MIA for a few days - I was flattened by a vicious migraine that was worse than usual so that I couldn't bear to look at the screen, never mind work on it. So Ive had to wait until now to get to the final question and round off this All About Alphas discussion.

Today's question comes from Johanna

Just a quick note to say how useful this has been, and a suggestion. Could you
perhaps give us an example(s) of alpha heroes and the journeys they have to make
in order to find love? Perhaps using your own books, or recent books by other
authors. This way we might see how the characters develop, how the hero "finds
the courage to face his own flaws and overcome them". And doing this might also
clarify for us where the misperceptions of alpha (as arrogant etc) come

This is an interesting exercise for me as I don’t often sit down and look at my own books to see how I create the ‘journey’ that a hero makes. I weave information in instinctively and because I know from them outset just why he’s behaving as he is, what I know is his motivation – and so why I believe in writing him at all, I find that it comes into the story as I go along and I don’t stop to think of it specifically. I couldn’t write a man as a hero unless I believed I had given him justification for his thoughts action and behaviour – even if those are mistaken beliefs – so I’m always writing from that perspective rather than feeling the need to make sure I detail these elements. And of course I stick by the things I’ve said about the more outrageous the behaviour - on the part of either the hero or the heroine – the stronger motivations I have to make sure they have. Often this is the most important bit of planning, the piece of the jigsaw that needs to fall into place – exactly WHY he is doing this – or, no matter how great the plot I think I have, I can’t go forward with it.

So – to do a brief run through of a ‘journey’ of one of my heroes means I have to look at the book in a way I don’t normally do . But seeing as Santos Cordero from Cordero’s Forced Bride has already been mentioned in the comments of the last post (take a look at what Michelle has to say about that) I thought I’d take him as an example.

So we have Santos Cordero and Alexa Montague. All Alexa knows about Santos is that he is the man her younger half -sister is supposed to be marrying, plus the fact that he is involved in business deals with her father – deals that seem to be making her father ill and tense. She meets him for the first time when she comes to the pre-wedding dinner and thinks he has the coldest eyes she has ever seen. He is also known as El Brigante – the Brigand.

All this information comes through Alexa who doesn’t really know Santos at all. She doesn’t even know the truth behind the wedding. But when she sees that her sister is afraid if the marriage she insists that Natalie doesn’t go through with the wedding. She arrives at the church to tell Santos and is stunned by his reaction which is to laugh and ask why he should care. He is very cold, very angry, determined that someone should pay for the humiliation of the marriage that isn’t going to take place.

As Michelle says, the reader needs to know that there are reasons, justifiable reasons, behind Santos’s behaviour. Seeing the scene from his POV the reader sees that there is more to this marriage than Alexa realises. And that Santos believes Alexa knew this all along. Circumstances, plus Alexa’s attitude which he sees in a different way – the way that his past has led him to expect build to create this idea is his head. So fears/scars that he isn’t prepared to admit even to himself – that he doesn’t acknowledge are affecting his thinking – influence his reaction.

And the most important thing – the one he’s only just beginning to admit to himself is the fact that in Alexa he sees the woman he wants most in all the world. It’s a raw, compelling, overwhelming powerful hunger that right now he doesn’t know how to handle. So he attributes it to anger and a determination for revenge because he doesn’t have the emotional vocabulary – or understand to see it as anything else.

Anger, revenge etc are the feelings he vocalises - so that’s what Alexa believes drives him. He singles her out at the wedding reception - a reception his pride makes him hold even though there’s no wedding – but also because it keeps Alexa with him. He isolates her from her family so that he can focus on her. He tells her that he has no belief in love but at this stage doesn’t explain why. Just says that he is a very cynical man. He alos declares she can take her sister’s place. What he means is he wants her to take her sister’s place. He wants her as he has never wanted Natalie. – he never slept with the younger sister; it was purely a marriage of convenience.

But when he sees that Alexa’s feet are torn to ribbons by the shoes she’s been wearing he shows concern and gentleness as he cares for them,. This new closeness spills over in to passion.

But Alexa runs away – so when Santos comes to find her again in her small house in England, he has his armour back up. He is not prepared to risk saying that he can’t get her out of his mind so he has excuses like the shoes she left behind – and protective armour like the declaration that her family opwes him a bride – to shield himself from revealing to her (and admitting to himself ) the feelings that are growing inside him – feelings he doesn’t understand for reasons that Alexa will soon discover.

Santos starts to let out some facts about his past – the past that has made him what he is – and at the same time Alexa’s behaviour makes him start to wonder if in fact she really knows what has been going on and the way that the rest of her family have behaved. He also knows that what matters is not that a second Montague sister has run out on him but that this one – Alexa – is the one whose desertion has actually affected him. He can’t laugh off this one with ‘why do you think I would care?’

When he crashes his car and Alexa shows that she is upset at the thought he might have been hurt, more of the emotional, internal barriers between them start to come down and they make love again in a very different mood and atmosphere from the first heated passion of the non-wedding day. Waking, Alexa sees evidence of the physical damage that mirrors the emotional damage done to Santos in the past and explains why he doesn’t believe in love. For Santos this is an important discovery – that he is prepared to trust Alexa with the story he hasn’t told anyone else.

Alexa’s father phones which makes her find out the truth about the way her family have behaved, the money they owe Santos, the reasons behind the planned wedding between him and Natalie. She now believes he is only after the respectability that having a Montague as a wife would bring him – just as he had planned it with her sister. Santos takes another step towards recognising what he feels by saying that he will forget all about the past, what her father owes him, but he still cannot say the words Alexa needs to hear – the words he has never known or believed in. He can only say that he wants her and that is not enough. He has to recognise that his own behaviour has brought them to this point and she pushes him even harder when she says she can’t accept his proposal – marriage or nothing, he says – so(without love) for her it has to be nothing. But when it comes down to it he can’t walk away, can’t leave this woman who has come to mean so much to him. So he has to face his own part in what has happened, the way that his own cynical approach to life, his denial of love, has led him to almost lose the woman he now recognises he love.

That is how I saw the story developing – the journey that I thought Santos was on. The problem at the beginning is that, because he is not yet ready to accept or believe in love, he doesn’t know what it feels. He knows what sexual desire – what wanting a woman is – but he wants this one more than any other. And so he si determined to hold on to her, keep her, by whatever means possible. Deep down inside there is still a trace of the scared little boy who was abandoned and abused – so he daren’t let that little boy surface again or he will feel the hurt and loss all over again. But if he doesn’t then he will experience another, more devastating loss.

Butu – and here is the most important thing for a writer and perhaps the hardest ting to do when writing Santos’s story. He doesn’t yet know this – so even in his own POV he can’t acknowledge it until he has been through some of the journey towards loving and so can let his attitudes and thought processes start to change. If the reader doesn’t sense some of that vulnerability, the self-deception, self-protection inside his mind, then she will think that he is as cold and hard as he is acting – as cold and hard as he is telling himself that he really is. And so as cold and hard as he comes across to Alexa in the beginning. The author needs to show those touches of vulnerability – those chinks in his armour – the way he adjusts and changes his opinion so that really the reader needs to know him better than himself. And this is one of the reasons why the alpha male in these sort of circumstances is often misread and misrepresented – because some readers can read those clues easily and some can’t. Some readers are totally convinced that the ‘your family owe me a bride’ declaration is a cold-blooded brutal demand while others will see the defensive shield that is put up to protect that little boy inside from yet more hurt by a woman that the grown man desperately wants but can’t fully trust.

Because sometimes you can put in all the clues, all the motivation that you think works – the things that would convince you as a reader and they just don’t work for other people. The problem then is what they bring to the story and not what you put into it. But you have to do your very best to make that motivation and that ‘journey’ work so the aware and sensitive reader can see how your hero has grown and developed through the story.

I hope that this makes sense and that it helps - as I said, I'm not used to analysing and dissecting my books in quite this way.

And that's the end of the All About Alphas special. I hope you've taken away ideas and thoughts and perhaps had your vision of an alpha male expanded and deepened as a result. I'd like to thank all the wonderful authors who have joined in and helped me by giving their take on the alpha hero - every post has added to the knowledge and they have all been fantastic.

And as I firmly believe that the theory is best understood and brought home by actual examples don't forget that reading the books by these authors will add to your knowledge and understanding too. Because it's one thing discussing the theory - another thing entirely to put it into practise and creat a believable, sexy, powerful and yet sympathetic hero for your heroine to come up against. And then to put him into a story that shows his development - and hers. So read these authors, with their blofg comments in mind.

I hope you've enjoyed this special - please let me know if you have. And if there's enough interest maybe at some point later we'll do another one on another topic - if you'd like that then please leave your suggestions for thr writing topics you'd like to see covered in the comments section .

And on a final, personally celebratory note, I heard from my editor this week that my own latest Alpha has stolen her heart away ( 'delicious' was the word she used to describe him) and so Nikos and Sadie's story has been accepted and bought and will appear under the title of The Konstantos Marriage Demand in February 2010. So on to the next alpha in my life . . .


Lorraine said...

Your comments about leaving 'clues' for the reader are really interesting because I've been wondering how to handle a core vulnerability in my hero when he isn't ready to really acknowledge it himself.

I've really enjoyed this series, it's been incredibly helpful so a BIG thank you from me :-)

I'd certainly be interested in any future topics you run.

Caroline said...

Hi Kate. Your Alpha male series has been excellent! Most enlightening, and any future projects would be most welcome. Congrats on your acceptance and your "delicious" alpha hero! Take care. Caroline x.

Johanna said...

I've really enjoyed this Q&A, and it's been really helpful. Thanks Kate. Suggested topic? Conflict (internal and external).

sheandeen said...

Kate you are an amazing person--giving us so much insight on various forms of the alpha male. Showing us tips on characterization and analyzing your own work (especially when your writing seems to come naturally to you). As someone who is at the beginning of this writer's journey I appreciate all the information that you (and many other talented HM&B authors) provide.

Amanda Holly said...

The "Alpha" series has been the best eye opener for me as an aspiring writer. I read the Cordero book when it came out and was blown away by the intensity of the story and to have it dissected like this also makes me appreciate the craft of story telling more!

I would welcome any other topics you would care to discuss on your blog and would like to suggest we spend some time on the heroine. How to make her feisty without turning her into a bra burning tom boy and how not to make her so vulnerable we want to give her a good shake!

Thanks for taking the time to blog and sharing of your experience!


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