Yesterday, I guest posted at the Writers in the Storm blog about making our characters strong yet vulnerable. I blogged about the topic here last year, but my post over at WITS includes details of how I tackled the issue with my characters in my releasing-next-week (Ack!) novel, Treasured Claim.
I shared how I balanced my hero’s strengths and vulnerabilities to keep him relatable so he’s not an alpha-hole jerk. *smile* And I also talked about how I balanced my heroine’s many strengths with her vulnerabilities to keep her likable.
I struggle constantly with keeping my heroines likable. So I have a lot of experience in trying to find that balance between showing their strengths and their vulnerabilities. One reason I struggle so much is because I want my heroines to be strong characters in many ways.
Matching the Heroine to the Hero
As I mentioned in the post at WITS, in many paranormal romances, the hero is a paranormal being and the heroine is a “mere” human. Between her gender and her human frailty, the heroine is usually at a big disadvantage.
No offense to many of my favorite books, but I didn’t want to write that kind of paranormal romance. When writing romance, I love exploring the power struggles and negotiations between the couple.
To me, a romance where the couple figuratively battles each other for the upper hand and gradually learns to function as a partnership and team feels true-to-life. So to write those kinds of stories, I needed heroines who were on equal footing—power-wise—with the hero.
In other words, I needed alpha heroines to go with my alpha heroes. *smile*
18 Traits of an Alpha Heroine
On some level, an alpha heroine is simply a character who knows what they want and is willing to stand up for themselves to get it. Depending on the story, that might mean they stand up to the antagonist, or it might mean that they stand up to the hero, or maybe they stand up to protect someone else.
I thought it would be interesting to go through the traits of an alpha male and see how they would translate to an alpha heroine. Following that same list of alpha male traits, let’s take a look at how heroines might be alpha characters.
An alpha heroine…:
- Won’t Fight just to Fight:
Being an alpha doesn’t mean being b*tchy and argumentative all the time. Rather it’s about using the right tools for the situation—whether that’s tact, stubbornness, humor, logic, etc.—to stand up for herself and those who matter to her.
- Doesn’t Wait to Be Led:
An alpha heroine knows what she wants and won’t wait for someone else to hand it to her. She might also lead in other ways, such as listening to, guiding, or helping others.
- Has Strong Communication Skills:
She’s able to express herself in ways that get others to understand her point. She’s not afraid to have opinions.
- Has a Strong Presence:
People take note of her (for good or bad). This again comes down to leadership and a willingness to fight for what she believes.
- Makes Decisions:
My heroines often struggle with making (or sticking to) decisions when it comes to trying to stay away from the hero. *grin* But other types of decisions, such as standing up for others, even when not convenient, are easier for them. They believe in themselves, so they’re confident enough to follow through and take responsibility.
- Is Less Emotional:
Eh, I’m not sure this is a requirement for alpha heroines. (Although it is often true of my heroines, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. This is where exposing their vulnerabilities might come in handy. *smile*) In the comments below, Serena points out that this might mean they’re able to set aside their emotions when necessary to deal with situations. They can choose to be calm, even when upset, to be able to think clearly.
- Looks Out for Others and Solves Problems:
Just like how she doesn’t wait to be led, an alpha heroine doesn’t wait for others to solve issues. She’s often fiercely protective of someone and doesn’t run away when the problems get worse.
- Commands Respect:
She doesn’t demand respect; she commands it simply by being the kind of person she is. Maybe she’s very competent at her job, exceptionally kind, or extremely competitive, but something causes others to look up to her in some way.
- Doesn’t Panic:
She might not have all the answers, but she doesn’t panic about that (at least, not much *smile*). The decisions she makes are usually carefully considered and not just the result of random choices driven by chaos.
- Is Focused:
Their focus is often directed at trying to get what they know they want. She doesn’t go into things halfhearted.
- Isn’t a Doormat:
Just because she’s nice or kind or whatever doesn’t mean that she’ll let others take advantage of her (at least not long term). This goes back to standing up for herself and others.
- Might Struggle with Asking for Help:
She’s more comfortable solving her own problems. She’ll often ask for help only when absolutely necessary.
- Is Less Inhibited in Her Sexuality:
She might start out inhibited, but once she decides that she wants the hero, nothing will stop her. Her partner will know just how much she wants him because she’ll make it obvious (even if that’s only during their private time).
- Doesn’t Need the Approval of Others:
She’s confident enough in herself that she doesn’t feel the need to reach out to others for assurance all the time. She’s okay with her opinions, even if others aren’t.
- Isn’t a Slave to Fashion:
Alpha heroines won’t suffer with wearing uncomfortable heels on a regular basis unless they want to. They won’t dress with trying to impress others (other than maybe the hero) in mind.
- Isn’t a Social Butterfly:
They can be plenty social with their friends, but alpha heroines aren’t looking to be super popular. So they don’t seek out others for approval or other types of reassurance.
- Has a Good Sense of Humor:
While they won’t use jokes to be the center of attention, they do use humor for a purpose. They’re more likely to use humor when they want to make someone else feel better, defuse a tense situation, or put someone in their place, etc.
- Takes Care of Herself:
Alpha heroines aren’t expected to have the body of a model, but they believe in themselves enough to take care of themselves in some way. They might try to take care of themselves physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.
By no means should any alpha heroine have all these characteristics down pat—ever—and especially not at the beginning of a story. But as characters grow and mature, an alpha heroine would align closer with these ideals.
That might mean she starts off opinionated and fiercely protective of someone. But maybe she’s not good at communicating and getting what she wants. Then as she grows in maturity over the course of the story, she might learn how to control her anger and command more respect.
No alpha heroes would have all these characteristics either. But maybe by seeing all the ways we can show a character to be strong, we’ll realize that “strong” characters aren’t just about being dominant, physically or otherwise.
In fact, there are many ways to create strong female characters. We don’t have to rely on the butt-kicking stereotype to create a heroine that other characters—and our readers—will respect. *smile*
P.S. Don’t forget to check out my guest post at Writers in the Storm with details of what makes my shapeshifting-dragon heroine strong. *grin*
P.P.S. If you need more suggestions, I also shared how typically beta traits can show strength in my follow-up post here.
Do you write heroines who could be labeled “alpha heroines”? What traits do your heroines have that could be seen as alpha? Do you disagree with anything on the list? Do you have other suggestions for the list? Are you an alpha female, or do you know one?Pin It