Writing Alpha Characters
During the San Diego Comic Con they used to have a long-running, popular panel titled “Women Who Kick Ass” that showcased female characters from TV and film that embody strength and essentially kick ass. I think it is important to note that being “kick ass” does not necessarily mean they have to be physically tough, although that attribute is highly regarded for Alpha characters whether they be male or female. But emotional and mental toughness are just as important when delving into the mindset of of an Alpha.
So how do you get there?
How do you portray a character that embodies all those attributes but also make them real and relateable? Even the toughest superhero is not interesting to follow on their journey if they do not encapsulate and resonate a realism to them.
What makes an Alpha?
Writing Alpha’s, regardless of gender, simply means they are the ones willing to lead. They pull groups together, they are the glue that keeps the threads of an apocalyptic society together, or a rebel group fighting for survival against zombie hordes. The Alphas are the ones that the rest of the characters look to for answers. And whether they have the answer or not they dig deep down to find the best choice as it relates to the collective’s best interest. Alpha’s defend and sacrifice themselves if it is for the greater good.
I think it is a mistake to believe that “Alpha” stands for the douchey guy in the gym who is only concerned about his appearance. An Alpha is strong, no doubt, but they have a humbleness to them. One of the best examples of an Alpha male in my mind is King Leonidis in the movie 300. Portrayed brilliantly by Gerard Butler, he is a strong leader. His men follow him into battle even when the odds are greatly against them because they believe in his message. In other words…he can rally the troops. And he is a protector of his wife…an alpha in her own right. He defends her honor with a swift kick to a man who dares speak ill of her in his presence. But in their moments together, they are a united team. They compliment each other, one does not try to outshine the other. This is the way of the biggest Alpha duo in the world, the Lion and Lioness.
Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games would be another good example of an Alpha. Even though she is terrified of what fighting in the actual “Games” means, she still rises to the occasion. And finding that courage deep down is not only one of the main traits of an Alpha, but also an intricate part of character development.
In writing Alpha’s, they should embody the qualities that others would want to emulate, fight beside, love, and honor.
So how do you define Alpha?