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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Treatment Tuesday - Alpha Male on the Couch

Today's assessment puts Elona's character Sam* on the couch. She's writing a historical set in the 1500s on the wild western Irish islands. Sam's family, the MacNamaras, have been fighting over Eagle Island for generations with the heroine's family. At 19, Sam was seduced by his stepmother, his father's third wife. His father caught them en flagrante and shot an arrow into his wife. Sam picked her up, carried her through the night, and buried her, having been sent into exile by his father, who up until then has truly been proud of his son, teaching him how to fight, hunt, and ride. Sam is an alpha male and changes women like he changes tunics.

Elona wants to know: What would be the long-term effect of a young man (19) who had an affair with his stepmother who was then found out, disowned and sent into exile by his father?   What would this character’s attitude toward women be?

After getting more background from you on the traumatic way in which the affair happened, what with his stepmother being killed in front of him and him having to bury her, I'd say that the immediate reaction would be anger toward his father, but that might depend on whether he loved his stepmother or if he was just having a fling like she sounds like she was.

You've already mentioned that he's an alpha male, and this he no doubt learned from his father. The question to ask is why. So romance novels (in the non-Christian arena) generally have an alpha male lead, but you still have to have a reason for this. The father's reason might be simple: he truly loved his first wife, and when she died early in their marriage, he didn't want to risk losing his heart again to a woman who would abandon him.

But what about Sam? What I'm about to suggest for motivations and attitudes is totally just that: suggestions. It's up to you. You could have him really love his stepmother. Like romantically. Perhaps it was his first sexual encounter....the kind that stays with you forever...and he never fully got over her death. And as a result, he buries the part of himself that could ever truly connect with a woman again, and becomes a womanizer (or Don Juan or whatever men were called back in the 1500s).

But maybe his father's anger and violence awakens something in him....a part of him that actually hates his stepmother for what she did. She obviously took advantage of a younger man, and it cost her her life. Maybe Sam could think that she got what she deserved. Thoughts of her infidelity might could be what really affects him in the long-term....and he might come away from the whole traumatic idea with the internal schema that women are never to be trusted.

Or, just to throw it out there, you could have him as the quintessential angry alpha male. His pride was burned when his father exiled him at such a young age for something he felt wasn't his fault. He blames it on the dead stepmother, and somehow this anger transfers to other women. You could still go with the fact that he doesn't deem women trustworthy as the basis for his anger, but he uses and discards them the way he felt his stepmother did to him, and his womanizing ways are really a grand scheme to feel justified and get back at his stepmother and his father.

The exile from his father could also come into play (and should if you ever plan on reuniting them in anyway). Maybe he seeks to dominate women in order to align himself with his father in hopes to make him more appealing as a son and therefore worthy for the father to take back into his fold. This almost sounds too far-fetched, but motivations can be outlandish. It's how you write them that matters. I could totally see a grief-stricken lad of 19 believing this could be true.

So I guess I'd try to solidify a few things before going ahead with this novel:

1) How grief-stricken is he over the exile and/or death of stepmother?
2) What need is he meeting by being a womanizer? (I did an article for Christian Fiction Online Magazine about playboys here.)

Alrighty, then. Guess that sums it up. Hope it's been helpful. Thanks for writing in and thank you for your kind words. :-)

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