I have a problem with the Alpha hero and it just got a lot worse.
You may not have noticed this, but there are a lot of powerful creeps out there–Weinstein, Rose, Moore, Franken (break my heart, you bastard)–and a lot of people pointing out that “good-old-boy” does not mean “molests women and children” (and men, just ask Terry Crews). So of course now is when I wander into Alpha hero territory, and I’m trying to figure out how to do this because “Alpha hero” often means “Dickhead,” especially the ones from seventies who did a lot of “Whoops, sorry, I though you were a whore and that’s why I raped you” stuff. Sarah Wendell, quoted here, says of Alpha heroes, “Not only are they super powerful, controlling, authoritative — and also often shirtless — they take care of everything.” I can go with that definition, it’s the “let me force myself upon you because your body is something I deserve” that makes me want to kill them all. Yeah, if you touched her without a go-ahead, you’re a Dickhead.
And now I’ve written myself into a situation where I have to write
a Dickhead an Alpha hero.
Spoilers about Nita follow, but if you read this blog, you’re already spoiled, so what the hell.
Act One is Nita and Nick meeting and trying to get their respective jobs done in opposition to each other, and Act Two is working together and becoming partners, Nita getting spookier and Nick becoming more human. In Act Three, though, Nick becomes so human he regresses back to what he was when he was alive: a rich, arrogant, powerful, dangerous young man with no boundaries. This is a recipe for Dickhead, so I already had a problem keeping Nick sympathetic in this act. Then Trump bragged about grabbing small, furry body parts, and Moore started asking mothers if he could date their junior high daughers, and Franken decided that preying on sleeping colleagues would be funny and took a picture (“It’s a JOKE.” No, Al, it’s disgusting and you’re a creep) and all of a sudden, the Alpha hero is walking a very thin line.
That line has always been there, of course. Some of my favorite heroes have crossed it; I’m thinking Devil’s Cub where the hero assumes the heroine is a loose woman trying to trap him into marriage and tries to rape her and she shoots him, which makes him realize, as he bleeds out, that he assumed wrong. It’s not enough that he apologizes on the point of death, but it’s something. (He lives and adores her for the rest of his long life. Still a potential rapist, though. Dickhead.) I used to see that line crossed all the time when I read unpublished manuscripts. I think it was a combination of the writers wanting the heroine to have great sex without seeming like a slut (something my heroines never worry about, sluts all of them) and wanting to get to the good stuff fast. I remember one manuscript where the hero got on an elevator, met the heroine for the first time, and groped her. The writer of that one was not amused when I pointed out that he could be arrested for that and the heroine should have slapped the shit out of him. Another paranormal had a vampire hero casting some kind of spell on the heroine and then having great sex with her so when she woke up, she didn’t remember any of it. I said, “That’s RAPE,” and the writer was offended. Well, so was I. (Yeah, not a fan of the seventies romance novel, but YMMD.)
So the whole “do not put hands on someone else’s body unless that person has indicated great interest in having hands applied” seems antithetical to an Alpha hero, and I’m going to have to deal with that. No, Nita will have to deal with that. Which she will. Nita also embraces her anger in Act Three, so that should be fun. (It’s already fun, actually, I have part of Act Three written, including a scene that ends with Nita saying, “I’m going to go kick a Higher Power in the nether region.” I am enjoying this book.) But the truth is, she shouldn’t have to. He should know to keep his hands to himself, and if he doesn’t, he’s a Dickhead. So I have a Dickhead Hero in the third act.
BUT–and I think this will be the key–he also has to be smart. Skilled. Competence porn in the flesh. And a smart guy does not grope, or at least learns really fast not to grope. That’s one of the things that just floors me about all these weasels in the news: How could they possibly have thought that this stuff was okay? I know they knew they could get away with it, but how could intelligent men have thought, “If I behave this way, I will not be damaging my reputation and destroying professional relationships.” How could they be so fucking STUPID?
I do not want a stupid hero. So Nick is going to have to be a fast learner, which he is. And Nita is going to have to kick his ass all the way through the third act, which she will. It’ll be Burn the Patriarchy to the Ground Day for the whole act. That’ll be fun.