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What makes characters so compelling when you read about them in books or watch them in movies? Some stand out in your mind long after you close the book or turn off the television. When you learn to write alpha characters and beta characters, you create legends.
There is an intricate spectrum to the alpha character. You find yourself at a picnic, for instance. Joining you at the table is a person who draws attention to himself without uttering a word. There’s something about him: strength and confidence. You can’t put your finger on other things that command your attention, but . . .
Let’s see if we can unravel the mystery surrounding this personality, to find out what he’s made of:
If you’re around a person for some time, whether male or female, you can often realize that this person is an alpha.
Toss a piece of meat to a group of cats, and one will gobble it down while the others wait. The gobbler is the alpha.
The alpha character:
Alphas in a story are heroes unless they're villains. Even if they don’t start as alphas, circumstances may necessitate them to become one. Some alphas start as betas. Betas are much less action-oriented and are sensitive beings. We’ll talk about the beta later in this article.
We often associate alphas with heroes, especially in thriller, fantasy, and spy genres. These are action stories. Romance and comedy genres don’t necessarily need an alpha character.
When you learn to write alpha characters in a thriller genre, you will write an alpha hero and an alpha anti-hero (villain). This is what makes these types of stories fascinating. The alpha hero is strong, resourceful, and brave. But so is the alpha bad guy.
Remember Bruce Willis’ character, John McClane, in the movie Die Hard? He was strong and witty, but so was McClane’s arch-nemesis, Hans Gruber. In addition, Gruber was callous and unfeeling. Die Hard was a movie to remember, wasn’t it?
When there are two alphas in a love relationship, there’s lots of tension. They may learn to live their lives this way or perhaps one, maybe the female alpha might step into the role of the beta.
In today’s workforce, though, alpha women have become more financially independent and might not want to come home to their alpha mate and bicker. She may therefore choose a beta male who will be sensitive to her needs and offer her a steamy cup of herbal tea when she comes home tired.
Personalities are not rigid but are somewhat fluid. For instance, alphas are not strong and action-oriented every moment of the day. They are more likely than not somewhere on the alpha spectrum but can sometimes act more like a beta or even become a beta for a while. But mostly, they will stay true to their basic personality type. The same is true for the beta as we will see later. But know that when you learn to write alpha characters, they will fit into one basic category.
Alphas bring the heat!
Take a look at Sigourney Weaver’s character in the movie Alien. She may display moments of sensitivity, but she’s strong, resourceful, and calls the shots. Never will you see her curled up like a snail, balling her eyes out over some unsettling situation. Not gonna happen. Heroes can’t stoop this low.
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Besides the alpha, there is the beta, a sensitive, nice-guy type. The beta can be a nerd or someone who feels more for humanity.
Morrell says, “Typical beta qualities are being laid-back, self-aware, complex, and verbal.” She goes on to warn us not to mistake them for wimps or pushovers.
The beta male or female can transform into the role of alpha when pushed to extremes, although this is not their basic personality. And when the crisis is over, they will likely revert to being beta.
Remember David, the shepherd boy in the biblical story of David and Goliath? David is the quintessential beta. However, when his people are threatened, David transforms into the role of an alpha and armed only with a slingshot and five smooth stones, prevails against Goliath.
Think of Clark Kent. He’s described as a mild-mannered newspaper reporter, a beta type. Because of some urgency, he rushes into a telephone booth as a beta but emerges as Superman, an ultra-alpha, capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Oh, and he can turn the world around, too!
As stated previously, although the alpha (or beta) can move along the personality spectrum, they usually settle into one basic personality type. Betas are the supporting characters or sidekicks of the alphas.
In the movie Shrek, the alpha is an ogre while a donkey is his sidekick. This donkey, then, is the beta character. Beta characters are empathetic and friendly. They lower the flames of the alpha, calm things down, and lend support.
There are also omega males and females. You find these subservient to the alphas and the betas. An alpha can be dethroned to the point that he or she can slide to the omega position. Omegas are eccentric, individualistic, and often unpredictable. These characters can be quirky and can spice up your story. For this article, though, we will consider alpha and beta personalities. However, even beyond the omega, there are many other personality types. You can read about them here:
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We’re now familiar with the alpha and beta personality types. There are benefits to learning about them. Let’s discuss a few of these. The alpha and beta personalities:
Add depth to your characters. Real-life people are complex and diverse. Your fictional characters should be also. This understanding will help you shape your characters so that they will be relatable to your audience.
Improve storytelling. When you write scenes involving personalities, they can range from conflict to harmony, depending on whether or not you have two alphas, two betas, or an alpha and a beta. You can understand how to weave the story together so that it will become a successful tale.
Drive your plot forward. An alpha male and an alpha female in the same workplace can fight over a job opening. However, knowing that when you add a beta as a supervisor, he or she can be level-headed enough to calm the situation and find a solution.
Guide you into knowing how to write their dialogue more effectively. You can do this because you know their nature. Understanding personality types can help you depict nuanced emotions and reactions, and help you to put these traits into dialogue.
These personalities bring your characters to life by enabling you to see your own traits reflected back at you. Are you a leader who’s really good at solving problems? Or are you the more sensitive type who focuses on making the world a better place?
When you learn to write alpha characters and betas, your stories will come to life and create captivating stories, having transformed a ho-hum narrative into a masterpiece.
As you learn to write alpha characters, know that the betas are just as important. They can even be more important because all stories, the slower ones, don’t need an alpha personality.
Learning these character traits is not merely about enhancing writing skills; it’s also about journeying through the labyrinth of the human psyche, morphing reality into mesmerizing fiction.
You can purchase Jessica Morrell’s book at Amazon: