Please welcome the awesome Coral Moore:
Topic: Of Romance and Heroes
Romance is nothing without characters. It seems an obvious statement—someone has to fall in love, after all—yet so often the characters in romances fall flat. The reason for this comes down to overreliance on the archetype, a sort of universal template that everyone in a given culture can understand. A few examples are the fair maiden, prince charming, and the grizzled veteran. While it’s easy to use this shortcut to help readers understand the basics, a character who is nothing more than an archetype does tend to be one dimensional.
People are complicated. Each of us is an individual. We can’t be placed into one archetype bucket and left there. Characters should be no different. This is especially the case with the much-beloved alpha male of romances.
I love alpha males. I write them almost exclusively because I find them endlessly interesting–that’s why I married one! However, the boorish cutouts laying claim to the women of romance these days have gone beyond ridiculous, and frankly, are getting tiresome. Again, this is about archetypes and the failure to build beyond them. An alpha male is aggressive and territorial, we all know that. In real-life though, that’s only one part of their personality. They can also be vulnerable, love-struck, lonely, or a thousand other descriptors that would normally be at odds with their base. The best characters show the reader these other sides, and the reasons why they might be there.
The biggest problem I have with the modern-day alphas is that they’ve become so one-sided that they’ve turned into bullies. I write my heroes aggressive, but they are rarely pushy with their love interests, usually quite the opposite. That’s an important distinction for me, because a man who tries to bludgeon the person he loves with his personality or physicality isn’t a hero. He can inflict his will on everyone else in the book, and he can do some pretty terrible things to get his way, but he can’t want to do that to the object of his desire.
By giving him more facets and reasons for him to act beyond his archetype, an author can not only make the alpha male more interesting, but also more likeable. Maybe he was undersized as a child and was bullied mercilessly, so when he grew up he decided he would always act first. Such an undercurrent of vulnerability as the basis for his aggression goes a long way toward making his overbearing behavior palatable and sets the stage for kinder treatment of his lover. That’s a quick example, but you can see where I’m going. The reader doesn’t need a constant chorus of “MINE” to elaborate on the alpha’s character. What needs explanation is what’s beyond that, the stuff that makes him different. The beauty of characters, like that of people, is found in uniqueness, not in sameness.
We can’t completely escape archetypes, they exist for a reason. Society is made easier by understanding that there are different types of people. Relying on them too much though, can make us judgmental in the real world and certainly makes stories less interesting.
* * *
For more of Coral’s random ramblings, follow her on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter. Her latest release, Elements of Rebellion, is a dark fantasy romance—equal parts adventurous, disturbing, and heart-warming.
Elements of Rebellion
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Bared Teeth Publishing
Number of pages:284
Word Count: 85,000
Cover Artist: Amanda Kelsey
After spending most of her life an unwilling captive in a brothel, Sindari is sold to Lord Devin, a man with a reputation for unspeakable cruelty. In the arms of this man who must pretend he cares nothing for her, Sindari finds compassion, making the journey through her barren homeland all the more perilous. Along the way she discovers she can channel elemental forces that compliment Devin’s ability to manipulate fire.
Harnessing this power, she battles the Dominion, an unrelenting foe that has broken the spirit of the Eldari people through twenty years of savagery. Trapped by the brutal empire that has enslaved millions, Sindari and Devin fight against hopeless odds.
Warnings: Graphic Violence and Sexual Situations
I don’t belong to him, and nothing he can do will change that. I repeated that in my head while I sobbed. I lay face down along the length of the heavy, familiar bench, my wrists secured to the legs on either side. The bindings held me so I couldn’t move more than a tiny bit in any direction.
Between my hitching breaths, I heard Master Mitchell’s belt threading back through the loops of his trousers. He stood next to me without saying a word.
When the last of my tears had flowed, he pulled my hair away from my face with gentle fingers. “Aren’t you tired of fighting me after all this time? You know it won’t do you any good.”
I didn’t bother to answer. He reached over me to his dresser, then gave me a whack on the backside. I stifled a groan. The pain was nothing compared to the welts that burned across my back from his belt’s attentions, but I knew what he held from that one touch. The wooden back he had just slapped me with was by no means the worst that coarse brush had to offer.
He paused to rub his knuckles over my bare bottom in a mocking caress. “With your uncooperative attitude, I can only place you with the roughest of my clients. Wouldn’t you prefer to serve men who won’t treat you so badly?”
“Then who would you offer up to those swine?”
He flipped the brush around and hit me with the stiff bristles until I squirmed from the cutting bite of it scratching my skin. “That’s none of your concern.”
How wrong he was. I’d been making that decision for years by being difficult with every man he put in a room with me. Keeping the worst of them away from the other girls seemed worth it, most of the time.
Merciful spirits, I hated that brush.
He sat down on the bench above my head and lightly placed his hand on the back of my neck. “I can think of more pleasant ways to spend our time.”
I had little interest in his clumsy seduction, a fact which he knew by then. “Let’s just skip ahead to the part where you force yourself on me and pretend that I enjoy it.”
With an angry hiss, he peppered my back with the brush. The bristles tore at my broken skin and sent agony radiating in every direction. I started screaming after the third strike and lost count soon afterward.
When I ran out of breath and could scream no longer, he stopped. My entire back throbbed. I gulped for air. He tugged the strap around my knees loose while humming quietly. I rested my face against the bench and took a few shuddering breaths.
He scratched the bristles of the brush up the back of my right thigh to get my attention. Though my legs were free, I was too exhausted to move away from the uncomfortable sensation.
“Your defiance is not without its charm. The quiet moments after are always so enjoyable. I’ll miss you when you’re gone.” He’d threatened to sell me to a labor camp as a breeder so often that it had ceased to frighten me long ago.
I swallowed to steady my voice, my throat raw from screaming. “Am I going somewhere? I hear Garza is nice this time of year.”
He laughed, but there was little humor in the sound. “Tristan will be here in a few weeks to take a batch of girls to sale in Rochelle.” He put down the brush and ran his fingers over the curve of my ass. “You don’t bring in as much as you used to. I can no longer justify keeping you for what little amusement you offer me when there is no profit in it. You’re going in the next group.”
I turned my head to look at him, not believing a word of it. When I saw his expression, though, I knew he was telling the truth. His graying hair clung to the sides of his face, framing a sad smile that was not at home on his handsome features. I held his gaze for longer than could be considered appropriate. Neither of us spoke.
I had wished myself free of his House more times than I could remember, but with the prospect of getting out before me, fear crept into my throat and choked me. With Mitchell, I knew where I stood and which lines he wouldn’t cross. As much as I hated him, there was a measure of trust there that I couldn’t deny. After I was auctioned, there was no telling where I would end up.
“Nothing to say?” His hand slid over the torn skin of my back with a light touch that brought an absurd amount of pain. I gritted my teeth.
He crouched next to my head and worked at the binding on my right wrist. “If you ask me nicely, I’ll consider keeping you.” His blue eyes searched my face as he caressed my cheek. The unspoken promise of tenderness was a familiar lie. I no longer wondered who that lie was supposed to convince.
How easy it would be to beg him to keep me. For a brief moment, I almost wished I could do it. I despised the weak part of myself that wanted his approval.
“Never.” I turned my face away from him and closed my eyes. Tears overflowed and spilled down my cheeks. I didn’t want him to see how much he had hurt me because I knew that pain was what he sought, an indicator that he’d broken me at last.
With a contemptuous growl, he stood and kicked the bottom of the bench under my head, jarring my teeth with the force. The sound of his belt being pulled free again rasped in my ears.
Coral Moore has always been the kind of girl who makes up stories. Fortunately, she never quite grew out of that. She writes because she loves to invent characters and the desire to find out what happens to her creations drives the tales she tells.
Prompted by a general interest in how life works, her undergraduate schooling was in biology. She follows science news and enjoys conversations about genetics and microbiology as much as those about vampires and werewolves. Coral writes speculative fiction and is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Writing at Albertus Magnus College.
Currently she lives in Connecticut with the love of her life, who offers both encouragement and kicks in the tail when necessary. Also in residence are two mammals of the families Canidae and Felidae.