Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Alpha-male as a Villain?

Following on from yesterdays post, I spent some time thinking about my e-books last night and I realised that, far from painting my Male Leads as alpha-males, actually, it's my antagonists (or villains if you prefer) who are the traditional alpha-males in my work.

I figured I needed to try and actually define an 'alpha-male' before condemning them as my villains, but it's proven quite tricky. Wikipedia (my usual Internet standby) has just come up with a definition in terms of wolves and chimps. The closet I got was this

Alpha Male: a term used to describe a macho male character within a romance.

from fiction forum.

Not the best definition in the world, but look deeper and everyone seems to argue about it. Look here, for example, where it seems that Alphas are both good things and bad, depending on who's answering. Still, it's suits my argument to use the definition above. So let's stick with that.

So, let's focus on my two Phaze releases, Charlotte's Secret and Lost & Found.

There is, unquestionably, an character fitting the description above in Charlotte's Secret. His name is Mike Liggins and he is David's wife's bit on the side. He's not the sharpest tool in the box - in stark contrast to David who is so smart it's scary - but he is built like the proverbial brick-shit-house and has a unfathomable attraction to the ladies. As Charlotte thinks to herself when she's hidden in the bushes watching Susie give Mike a blow-job

...he might be rough and ready, and not that bright, but he did have one thing going for him...

Later in the story, even Charlotte succumbs to Mike's animal magnetism when she finds herself day-dreaming about him.

“You want it, then? After all you’ve said about me? What was it you called me? Moron, wasn’t it? I’ll show you who’s a moron.” He slammed into her hard and kept on slamming as Charlotte’s orgasm built again.

“Oh, yes. Harder! Faster! Give it to me, you bastard!” She screamed as her orgasm hit. How long it lasted, she didn’t know. She didn’t even know if Mike came or not.

He's big, strong and assertive. I imagine him down the pub with his mates bragging about his conquests, going to watch the football, leading the chanting and then getting into some agro with the opposition supporters afterwards. He's a beat-your-chest, almost stereotype of an alpha-male. And he's my villain.

Moving on to Lost & Found, we find a different type of alpha-male. Unlike Charlotte's Secret, which is told mostly from David's point of view but switches to Charlotte's for the few scenes where David isn't around, Lost & Found sticks firmly to my Male Lead's point of view throughout. Chris is an Economics PhD, and although his job is never specified, Beth does refer to him as a 'financial whiz.  But Chris isn't an alpha-male in the traditional sense. Yes, he's a bread winner, and yes, he earns a lot of bread but his most significant relationship in recent years has been with a woman on the other side of a computer screen on different continent.

Whereas Beth's father, Colonel Robert Burnett, is alpha-male all over. Retired Colonel, he's used to being in charge, used to having his orders followed. He's proud his quarterback jock, championship winning, son joined the army. You couldn't get much more 'alpha'. But he's were he differs from Mike in Charlotte's Secret. The most important thing in The Colonel's life, is his daughter. He just doesn't express it very well. He expresses it like an 'alpha'. He tells her what to do, shouts and gets mad and frustrated. But he'll do what he needs to protect her. Look at the scene below. This isn't the first time this scene has appeared on this blog, but I like it and it's my blog, so tough.

Can you see the difference between what I consider my two Male Leads in this piece. Yes, The Colonel is as important to this story as Chris is. This is a story about two men vying for the affections of one woman - her father and her lover. Chris stands up to The Colonel, but it shakes him - he's not used to it. He does it because he loves Beth and wants to protect her. The Colonel wants to protect her too, it's just a shame he's too pig headed to see he and Chris want the same thing.

I like The Colonel. One day, I'd like to give him his own starring role in a story. But not just yet. And if I did, he might have to be just a little less 'alpha' first.

Beth’s father stood in the entrance looking at the floor.

He lifted his head and looked surprised for a second before his expression became harder. He twisted his wedding ring around his finger as he spoke. “Is my daughter home? I have something I need to say.”

“No. I’m sorry. She’s gone to work.”

“Oh. I didn’t think she would be working today.” He tuned to walk away then turned back. “So what are you doing here?”

“Beth insisted I stay to save on hotel bills.”

“And that’s the only reason is it?” He didn’t sound convinced. “I’m not stupid, son. You don’t cross the Atlantic just to comfort someone at a funeral. I think that perhaps you and I should have a conversation. Don’t you? I’ll talk. You listen. Understand?” He strode through the door and into the lounge.

Chris closed the door and followed him. “Look, Mr. Burnett, I don’t know what you think is going on here, but I swear, I was just—”

“Colonel.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s Colonel Burnett. I’ve served my country my whole career and risked my life to ensure her security. I’ve damn well earned my title, so I’d appreciate it if you’d show some respect and do me the courtesy of using it.”

“Well, in that case, Colonel, you can address me as Dr. Austins. I studied full time for seven years and had to pay for it myself by working evenings and weekends in a shit-house restaurant. My parents weren’t wealthy. You earned your title, and I’ve earned mine.”

“And what exactly are you a doctor of?”

“I hold a Ph.D. in Economics and Management Studies from the LSE on top of my first class Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Kings College, Cambridge.”

“What the hell is the LSE?”

“The London School of Economics.”

“Well, that all sounds very impressive. But it still doesn’t give you the right to disrupt my son’s funeral.”

“Now, hang on just a sec. I didn’t disrupt anything. All I did was stand next to Beth and support her when she broke down. You didn’t see Beth standing at the graveside in tears, did you? Blaming herself for his death?”

“You, a complete and utter stranger, showed up at my house, with my daughter, and started an argument.”

“Forgive me, Colonel, because all I remember doing was defending Beth when you called her an ungrateful wretch.”

“She is an ungrateful wretch. Fancy talking to me that way, questioning the way we treated Lance. He fought terrorists to keep our country safe!” The Colonel’s arms were as expressive as his words.

“It’s my understanding that there weren’t all that many terrorists in Iraq until we invaded.”

“You’re one of those liberal, anti-war assholes, aren’t you? Don’t you remember nine-eleven?”

“Yes, I do. And I remember seven-seven too.”

“Remember what now?”

“Colonel, America isn’t the only country to suffer at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.”

“You mean that thing on the subway in London?”

Chris nodded. “I was there. I got off the train at King’s Cross just before the third bomb ripped through it.”

“Weren’t those boys home-grown? They were from somewhere in the north of England weren’t they?”

“They were. But the guys who hit the twin towers weren’t from Iraq either. The invasion—”

“It wasn’t an invasion. It was liberation. We freed the Iraqi people from a murderous tyrant.”

“The invasion had nothing to do with nine-eleven. And if it wasn’t for the invasion, there probably wouldn’t even have been a seven-seven. It was all about US oil interests. Plain and simple. George Dubbya was finishing the job his Daddy started.” Chris’s heart was racing and adrenaline pumped around his body. He felt hot and knew his face had reddened—it always did when he was angry.

The Colonel stood straight and tall, his hands behind his back. Chris could see the same suspicion in his eyes that had been there during their encounter the day before. His eyes narrowed. “I see. I see.” His voice was so cold and quiet that it chilled Chris’s blood. “So it’s you who’s been putting these crazy ideas into Lizzie’s head. I should have known from the look of you when I first saw you.”

“Actually, Beth and I met in an anti-war chat room two years ago. She’s always been against the invasion.”

“Nonsense. My daughter isn’t a traitor.” The Colonel turned on his heel and walked towards the window. He stared out into the street. “She’s a good girl, my Lizzie. Not a traitor.”

“You’re right, she’s not a traitor. She just doesn’t listen to all the propaganda that comes out of Washington. She has far too much integrity for that. She makes up her own mind. She listens to all sides of an argument and forms her own opinion. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone less influenced by other people’s rhetoric. Forgive me, Colonel, but it seems to me that you don’t know Beth as well as you think you do. Or as well as you should.”

The Colonel rounded on Chris. “Are you questioning my relationship with my daughter, young man?”

“Not at all. I don’t think I could because I’m not sure you even have one.”

“How dare you! What would you know about my relationship with Lizzie?”

“Only what she’s told me—which I’ll admit is a bit one-sided. But I’ll tell you what I do know. I know that for years she tried her hardest to catch your eye, to get your approval. But you only ever had eyes for your perfect son. She was top of her class, she learnt to play the piano and the flute, her achievements were every bit as impressive as her brother’s. But you never saw them. You looked past her to Lance.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Do you have any idea how that made her feel—to do so well and still be second best?”

“She was never second best. She’s my Lizzie. My baby girl. I adore her. This is all rubbish.” He jabbed his finger towards Chris. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Are you sure? Look, Colonel, I have not doubt that you love Beth—what sort of man doesn’t love his daughter. But did you ever show her?”

The Colonel said nothing

“When was the last time you held her? Or kissed her forehead? When was the last time you said ‘I love you, Beth’? Colonel, do you have any idea how Beth felt when you nominated Lance for West Point?”

“She was proud. We all were.”

“It never occurred to you that she might wonder why you didn’t nominate her? Because that’s what she did.”

“I’d have thought it was obvious.”

“It was obvious to Beth. It was because you didn’t think she was good enough.”

The Colonel stared at Chris. “That’s not true. She would have done at least as well as Lance did. Maybe even better. I’m sure of it.”

“Then why didn’t you nominate her?”

The Colonel raised his voice. “Because she’s my special little girl. I couldn’t let her join the Military—Lord knows what might have happened to her. I’m her father. I have to protect her.”

“But have you ever told her that?”

The Colonel turned back to the window.

“I didn’t think so,” said Chris.

There was a long pause. The Colonel ran his fingers though his short grey hair. Chris waited.

“Are you screwing her?” the Colonel said in a calm, quiet voice.

“Sorry?”

The Colonel turned back towards him, his fists tightly clenched. He spoke through gritted teeth. “It’s a simple enough question, son. Are you screwing my daughter?” He exhaled. “I know how it works. A man doesn’t fly halfway around the world to see a girl unless he thinks he’s going to get a little pussy.”

“I don’t think that’s any of your business, Colonel.”

“What did I just tell you? She’s my daughter, it’s my job to protect her. Of course it’s my business when some asshole tries to take advantage of her.”

Chris shook his head. “You’ve got it wrong. You don’t need to protect her from me. I would never take advantage of her. Never hurt her.”

“Really? So what happens when your vacation is over and you go back to England. Don’t you think that will hurt her?”

It was Chris’s turn to raise his voice. “I’m not taking advantage of her.” He calmed. “If anything, she’s taking advantage of me.”

“So you are screwing her. I’m going to make this real simple for you, boy. Get the hell out of River’s Crossing or so help me God, I’ll dig out my service revolver and shoot you dead.”

“I’ll leave if and when Beth asks me to. And if you have to kill me, then maybe Beth will be better off when you’re locked up.”

Colonel Burnett took a step towards Chris. “Don’t play with me, son. I’ve killed for my country, I wouldn’t think twice about killing for my family. She’s all I have left. I won’t let you take her from me.” He marched out of the house and slammed the door behind him.

Charlotte's Secret and Lost & Found are available now from Phaze books and all good e-book sellers such as Fictionwise. Chloe's Education is a work in progress. The current version of Reunion is available via lulu.com.

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