Thursday, 20 December 2018

Alpha vs Alpha

I like alpha characters, by which I mean I like characters who are risk-takers, protectors, and are a little broody.  I like characters who don't hesitate to say what they mean and who also don't hesitate to throw themselves into the path of danger.  To be clear, being an alpha doesn't give a character the right to be a jerk and I've got no patience for domineering characters who are mean, dismissive and disrespectful.

I know alphas aren't everyone's cup of tea.  Some people prefer beta heroes and heroines, defined by their kindness, consideration and support of others.  And I like those as well, but there's something about a character who skirts the edge of darkness that I find appealing.  Maybe it's because I've had my own challenges with depression and I've had to find the energy to keep fighting.  Or maybe it's because I've felt like the outsider and needed to find my own path.  Or maybe I just enjoy reading about bad-asses who kick butt and take names.

But one thing I find frustrating is when those alpha characters cross lines and there's no character arc about consequences for those actions.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I was frustrated with a series that I really enjoy reading, in part because both the hero and heroine tend to be alphas and the author generally does a good job of showing the challenges of two alphas learning to live with each other.  But as I was reading one of the books, I noticed that the compromises tended to be one-sided with one character acquiescing to the other and the other taking a "take what I say or leave it" approach.

That didn't sit well with me.  And not just because it was the heroine who was the one compromising.  Part of what I love about stories about alpha characters is that character learning that they can't stand alone.  That letting other people in is a risk, but it's a risk that is worth it because spending their lives alone and miserable isn't actually a sign of strength.  

If a character only sees their romantic partner as a liability, someone to rescue and be worried about, then that's not really kind of character arc that I want to read.  Even if the character makes the same decision to share their lives because they no longer want to be miserable and alone, if they're not compromising in other aspects of their lives then the happily ever after doesn't read true because I wonder how the partner will feel long term.  Even if the character is devoted to making sure that their partner is happy and has everything they want, I wonder how many fights they'll end up having because of the fundamental lack of respect.

I'd like to see a story where two alphas are getting together and there would be the initial "my way or the high way" arguments but then the character realizes the fundamental problem with treating a romantic partner as if their thoughts, opinions and reactions are unimportant.  Even if they are convinced that they are completely in the right, they realize that dismissing their partner will create a fundamentally flawed and unhealthy relationship.  And then that alpha character takes the time and effort to truly open themselves up to an equal partnership.

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