She’s strong. Skilled. Smart. Sexy.
She’s the Alpha Female.
And readers love her.
Why? I’ve got my theories, and I think the reasons readers love reading about these types of female characters are the same reason we writers enjoy writing about them.
The alpha female is independent and self-reliant. Her resourcefulness, talents, and training give her a high level of independence and freedom. As for the rest of us here in the real world? Not so much. Our abilities are much more limited. Our reliance on our significant others, family, and friends restrict and bind us, leaving us with fewer options and less liberty.
An alpha female heroine bucks tradition and feels little obligation to follow decorum. She breaks social rules, doing unconventional things the rest of us would not. She’s a straight shooter, too, telling it like it is, feeling little need for the soft sell. We could never stomach such brutal honesty in real life. Still, though we might behave much better than these kick-ass heroines, we admire their tenacity and determination.
If you’re like me, you often find yourself overwhelmed by life’s little details. With endless duties and distractions, at most we can hope to accomplish two or three of the minor things on our daily “to do” lists. On the other hand, the alpha female has a clear and critical purpose, and is able to apply her efforts to achieving significant goals. We enjoy cheering on a heroine who can focus on the larger picture and make a real difference in her universe.
Despite her skills and talents, the alpha female is far from perfect. She falls short at critical moments, her mistakes often having costly results. Yet, although she might suffer guilt at the unforeseeable consequences of her actions, she never lets her failures throw her off track — at least not for more than a page or two. On the other hand, we real people are often paralyzed by our blunders, ashamed and embarrassed, afraid to try again. The alpha female’s ability to acknowledge her flaws and weaknesses and to keep going despite her mistakes is another characteristic we love about the kick-butt heroine.
An alpha female does not mind being alone, but pairing her up with a well-matched hero can raise a story’s stakes – and the temperature, too. When an alpha female and an alpha male share a common objective, the two are sure not only to conflict, but also to connect, sometimes simultaneously. The two will bring out both the best and worst in each other, which is sure to make the sparks fly and create an engaging story for both reader and writer.
As much as we love reading and writing about these alpha females and venturing into their high-risk, high-stakes worlds, for most of us it’s only fun to play at being kick-ass. We take comfort in the safety, security, and routine of our everyday lives. We’re glad our responsibilities are relatively minor, that the decisions we make won’t mean life or death for others, that the weight of the world isn’t on our shoulders.
Still, give me a kick-ass heroine any day and I’ll cheer her on from chapter one to the end.
Diane Kelly is the author of the funny Tara Holloway mystery series. The series debut – DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE – is available now. Book #2 –DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE – will be released March 1st, with Book #3 – DEATH, TAXES, AND EXTRA-HOLD HAIRSPRAY – to follow this summer.