Hopefully by now you've had a chance to read through all the lessons over the past week. For our last day I open the floor up to you to ask me questions. It can be over the material we covered or anything about the writing world in general. Just ask and I shall answer, well, within reason.
Thanks for joining me for this seminar.
Wow, there are so many questions I could ask you, so many topics I could bring up for discussion! But here's one I've seen on quite a few websites, blogs, and FB fan pages for romance readers/writers, so I must assume a lot of us are thinking about this issue.
I'm talking about alpha heroes vs. beta heroes. Yes, the great majority of romance heroes are alphas. But---just my opinion---lately it seems that often they're just TOO alpha!
The bar has been raised so high that they must act in ways that make them unlovable. And not only that, but they're no longer icons of masculinity. They're caricatures of masculinity.
Anyone in this workshop who's been reading my posts about my current WIP can easily guess that I go for beta heroes. I know I'm not alone. But marketing their love stories can be an uphill climb.
Also, allow me to throw out an idea that I already know is controversial, but must be brought up if we're going to discuss these two types of heroes. IMHO, it's easier for a writer to generate a plot if the hero is an alpha. Automatically she's got plenty of potential for conflict and drama---especially if the female protag is an alpha heroine. And nowadays, she usually is.
But how does a writer generate a plot if the hero is a nice guy? He's kind and lovable from the start, and doesn't have to be reformed and redeemed like those tortured, brooding, arrogant alphas.
In a way, this isn't a problem for me. My heroes tend to be betas because, aside from the fact that I find them more appealing than most alphas (even I have my exceptions!), they must deal with problems and overcome obstacles that a typical alpha wouldn't or couldn't. At least, not naturally; and I've already indicated what I feel about plot contrivances. In other words, employing beta males as romance heroes opens the writer up to a wealth of themes and plots that aren't being used often enough, if at all.
In my medieval romance WIP, if my hero were an alpha, he wouldn't be a scribe, a minor functionary. He'd be a warrior (but not a knight; in Wales during the Dark Ages, feudalism hadn't taken hold).
And consider the big issues in Collen's relationship with Teleri: Who is she? What's she up to? What must he do to find out? Once he falls in love with her, how does he deal with wanting a woman who belongs to his lord? How can he win her---and once he discovers her secret, how can he deal with that?
It's unlikely an alpha male would even care about any of the above. All this represents a story arc he'd never follow. He'd be too busy waging war, quarreling with his rivals, accumulating wealth, settling scores, and bedding every woman he can get his hands on. Oh yes, and brooding over past wrongs and feeling sorry for himself, if he's in the popular tortured-hero mode.
If his liege lord is about to marry an enigmatic maiden who just might be a malevolent fairy or a succubus, so what? As long as it doesn't interfere with Sir Alpha's quest for power, wealth, and fame, it's none of his concern.
But if the hero is a beta, one with a strong sense of altruism and idealism, who is very much aware of the code he must live up and is sincerely trying to do so, a man who prefers to think his way through problems and whose weapon of choice is his brain rather than his sword (or gun, or whatever)---these issues come naturally to him, and vice-versa. And I for one think that stories about such characters make for good reading!
Here's another issue you're welcome to discuss. Yesterday on the Book Wenches blog, "Teagan the Rambler" posed this question: Should we write for love or money? http://www.bookwenches.com/apps/blog/show/6827800
She presented both sides of the issue. But I responded from only one, and here it is:
Thank you for your post, Teagan. I write what I love to read, rather than what will sell, and for three reasons.
1. If I'm ever going to prostitute myself, I'll take to the streets and do it the right way. That's a far more business-like and money-savvy way to support oneself than by writing.
2. If I write only what I think will sell---and I can always be wrong, of course---that means I'm trying to add more works to a marketing niche that is already too full. For example, vampire romances. These aren't my cup of blood. But if I were to write one simply because they're popular, I'd be submitting to a flooded market. An editor would probably reject it simply because there are already too many vampire romances out there. Even an established author (which I'm not) would have an uphill battle to make hers stand out from the crowd and attract buyers. And if I decide to make like Amanda Hocking and self-publish---well, what are the odds? Probably only my BFF would buy the thing.
3. I'm writing for readers with tastes and standards similar to mine. They're not being catered to by the current romance market. Publishers big and small go after readers whose wants are already being satisfied, and then some. Those are the only ones they have market data on. How can they or anyone possibly measure that which isn't being bought because it's not being sold? I'm writing to provide that which is NOT already there. So I can't possibly follow market trends and shape my works accordingly. Like my favorite characters, I must think outside of the box. And write outside of it!
Hope this helps!
So what do you think, Robyn and everyone? What's your approach to this question?
I think the alpha/beta thing is a personal decision. Of course alpha males are more popular so you just have to decide if you want to write something that appeals to the largest majority of people. Think about the popularity of paranormal romance - vampires, werewolves and demons - the ultimate alpha males, they're actually monsters. For whatever reason our culture is demanding the strong, brooding male. Of course you can find books without them. I don't believe I write traditional alpha males. My heroes are strong and sexy, but not really brooding. It's just not my thing. But right now historicals aren't quite as popular as paranormals. That can always shift.
The bottom line is, you have to be true to your voice and if the alpha male doesn't work for you, then don't write them.
As for writing for love or money, I don't think anyone goes into writing for money. And if they do, they certainly wouldn't stick with it for very long. Of course there is money to be made in this business, but it's really a tiny portion of published authors who make the big bucks. Most of us make some money that contributes to our family's income but trust me we're not at home with a staff of 100, eating bon-bons and dictating our novels effortlessly to a home assistant. My laundry piles up, I have a car payment and a mortgage and I clip coupons obsessively. So no, I don't do this for the money, I do this because I can't do anything else. I can't not write. It's engrained in who I am, I am a storyteller and I will continue to do this whether the advance checks come or not.