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Monday, September 26, 2011

Alpha Males, Gruff Loners & Underdogs

I’m right in the middle of writing a mystery/fantasy/romance/mainstream, whatever the genre (for me any of the above and often at the same time). Then, all of a sudden, halfway through a crucial scene, my brain turns off like the proverbial faucet. Not even a drip comes out. I can’t figure out what the hero’s reaction should be. He’s suddenly become wimpy and indecisive. Of course he will win, UNLESS this is a twist in the story OR the darkest moment. OR, he’s an anti-hero and he’s really the villain. OR the heroine comes through to save the day. Maybe. I mean, if the good guys lose, that’s unexpected, isn’t it? Except that’s not exactly what you call a happily-ever-after but more like a wearily-never-happens. Oh the agony. What to do, what to do?
Then there are the rest of the decisions. Is he using a Colt Anaconda or a Dao sword, or maybe just an ordinary everyday weapon like a kitchen knife or a bookend? Whatever it is, it has to be effective. A hero who can’t wield a mean bookend doesn’t even deserve to get the girl.

My point is that in the life of every writer there comes a time when indecision strikes, even with the most carefully executed outline—not that I know anything about outlines, being the write-by-the- seat-of-her-pants kind of girl. What do you do to settle your mind and write on?

I find that I need to depend on my icons of hero magic. You know who they are: Dirty Harry, Rocky, Casey Ryback, Indiana Jones. The macho men of adventure. What were their character traits? Alpha males, gruff loners, underdogs, battling through impossible odds. Each of these heroes kept going when everything seemed lost. Each had his own signature weapon: Dirty Harry’s Magnum, Rocky’s fists,  Casey’s Asian-inspired fighting techniques,  Indiana’s whip and his gun. And each of them managed to do something you didn’t expect.
When I get blocked, I think about one of these heroes and my block disappears.

Give it a try. What Would Indiana Jones Do (WWIJD)? He’d pull out his weapon of choice and then think, what the hell, why not take the unexpected and direct approach and shoot him between the eyes? So, lead your reader down the expected path in that action scene and then surprise her and shoot the villain between the eyes. Believe me, it works every time.

Thanks Indie!

Bobbye Terry writes  mystery/suspense, romance, fantasies and dystopian fiction. Bobbye’s latest book is Coming to Climax and its sequel will be out in November. For more about Bobbye, visit her at


Paris said...

I love the alpha male hero and I love being surprised by a "back against the wall, no where to turn" reaction. I think writing action heroes is the most fun anyone can have because no matter what you have in the outline, it's always more fun when they surprise you:)

Katalina said...

You are so right Bobbye, the wonderful thing about an Alpha is he is daring and unpredictable!

Unknown said...

learning that converting an Alpha to a Gamma is fun....great post!

jean hart stewart said...

Wonderful post...I just went through two weeks of being blogged down on my hero.. I think I've got the solution now, but it took a complete twist that surprised even me....

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