Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Need A Man!

Sorry, I was listening to the Eurythmics yesterday and "I Need a Man" came on. I really love the aggressive feel of that song. It came out in 1988, a time of glitz and gloss for both genders and the song feels like a rejection of that over-stylized male and a need for something rougher and tougher. Anyway, it got me thinking about heroes, particularly alpha heroes.

I've never been a big alpha hero writer. My heroes tend to be smart, cooperative, looking for the best solution to the problem. They aren't automatically ruthless. The ask first before shooting. They worked well for me, but lately, I yearn for something else.

I want to write someone who solves problems with the least amount of trouble. Meaning, he doesn't negotiate. He talks in sharp one liners, can fell a tree with a flash of his cold, steely glare. His sense of justice is iron clad: you are either a good guy or a bad guy in his view, there is nothing in between. He may frighten you at first, but in the end he makes you feel safe.

To me, Dirty Harry epitomized the alpha hero. In truth, if we had to live with this guy...well, we wouldn't. Handsome, chilling, determined, he brought a sense of order to a world in chaos. And that's why I think my interest in such a tough guy has emerged.

Dirty Harry came on the scene during a tumultuous time. We were still in the midst of a war. Culture was changing. Society was going through rapid changes. People felt unsure. We are going through similar changes now. Our economy is in tatters. I know people who only two years ago were going on lavish vacations and buying expensive cars that are now struggling to keep their houses. I see shops and business disappearing, hear stories about friends losing their jobs. The situation abroad is no better. The Middle East is still explosive. Europe is suffering its own economic woes. And hell, to top things off, Jon and Kate are getting divorced. Could it get any more turbulent?

An alpha hero cuts through the uncertainty, provides a solid answer and stable pillar to cling to. He radiates confidence and security, a beacon in the ocean of the unknown we feel cast adrift in. No, he isn't reality. That would be a bad thing. But in fiction, particularly genre fiction, we want that escape. We want to see a microcosm of our own world, see situations which seem impossible resolved in the most expedient way possible. We want to feel safe, feel rescued.

Hence my alphanazation of my heroes. They're still smart. They dress well. They're handsome. But they are more willing to shoot first and ask questions later. They are less interested in hearing the heroine's side of the story and more interested in seeing her safe. Its going to add some additional conflict because my heroines tend to be a little overbearing, but I think the result could be interesting.

Have you found your heroes becoming a bit more alpha these days?

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