Thursday, March 17, 2011

What About the Beta and Gamma and Delta Males?

I got to spend an hour at my favorite coffee shop yesterday while I waited for the Saminator to finish track practice.  I had my trusty Novel Planning Notebook with me, so I sat down and worked on some lovely scene brainstorming and character development worksheet stuff. 

Fortunately, I didn't have my laptop with me, or I would have opened my WIP file and deleted everything, because I realized that I am writing a hero who is NOT ALPHA.  Which means that I totally suck. There is really no point in continuing this charade of a writing life.  I don't know what the hell I am doing, noone will EVER want to read what I am writing, it's BOOOORRRRING. 

I mean, everything I love to read has an ALPHA MALE in it, doesn't it?  All those Black Dagger Brothers are Alpha.  All those Troubleshooters boys are Alpha.  Vampire Bill WAS Alpha, at least in his little arena, until Sheriff Eric showed up, and then Sookie dumped Bill like yesterday's dirty underwear (and took an almost detour with Alcide, who's an Alpha Dog.  Sam is totally not an Alpha Dog, which is why Sookie's never gonna get busy with him). 

According to my homies at Wiki:  "The term "alpha male" is sometimes applied to humans to refer to a man who is powerful through his courage and a competitive, goal-driven, "take charge" attitude. With their bold approach and confidence "alpha males" are often described as charismatic. While "alpha males" are often overachievers and recognized for their leadership qualities, their aggressive tactics and competitiveness can also lead to resentment by others"

I also found information on How to Be an Alpha Dude, in case any guys out there need help with this.

So what about all the rest of the men out there?  Are they not getting ANY?  I can ask this question, because, honest to God, I have one of those Alpha Dudes of my own.  His abs could use some work, but other than that, he totally qualifies.  And while I'm at it, is everyone in England the offspring of royalty, since only the Alpha Dukes and Lords and Counts got lucky back in the day? 

What is it about the Alpha Dude that works in romance?  According to Smart Bitch Sarah
"readers are more likely to read about Alpha males with strong moral integrity, a hidden tenderness or the ability to be lethal while consistently choosing not to be—those make for some delicious heroes. Alpha heroes could be anything. They could be the alpha of a wolf pack, a literal alpha. They could be commanders or military officers or police chiefs. They could be lords or, depending on the mythology or theology of the romance in question, The Lord. (Heh—God, the Ultimate Alpha Male, particularly in the Old Testament.)."

Here is what works for me with the Alpha Dude:  He's commanding at work, around other Dudes, and he kicks ass on a regular basis, but here's the thing:  He's secretly terrified that someone will find out that HE'S NOT REALLY ALL THAT.  And here, of course, is where the heroine comes in.  She strips away all that tough guy crap and see's through his armor; and he has to learn to trust that she will still want him if he's vulnerable, yada yada; then Hijinks Ensue and we all go home with satisfied smiles on our faces. 

So what if our hero is just a guy?  Okay, an above average, smart, cute, funny guy; but not necessarily The King of The Universe (just Master of his own Domain?). 
I am thinking of Goodnight Tweetheart, by Teresa Medieros, in which the hero is just a guy, as far as we know.  We don't actually see him interacting with any other men, so we have no idea where he is in the food chain.  And maybe that's how he gets away with the heroine...his only competition is himself.  But that's the only recent example I can think of. 

So help me out here...what other kinds of heroes are there?  What books with really totally sexy hot heroes (who don't have to be in charge all the time) can you reccommend? 


  1. It's a YA book, but John Green's An Abundance of Katherines goes out of its way to point out that the former child prodigy MC is far from alpha male. No idea who the target audience is, but I liked it.

    I'm thinking through the stuff I've read this year. Seems to me that Romance is uniquely skewed toward the alpha. This is one of the reasons why it doesn't interest me on the whole, although I do like me some Charlaine Harris.

  2. Just read Big Bad Beast by Shelly Laurenston in which the hero is a beta werewolf, a.k.a. he doesn't dream of being the shit in charge of everything. It works pretty well considering the heroine is very alpha and it reads somewhat as a reversal of roles in some instances. For example she is all about the aggression and he is all about the nurturing (at least when it comes to her). Laurenston pulls it of though because he is smart, wily and goal oriented in his life - so he might seem weak in the pack pecking order but the characters in the novel are equals.

    I think that beta heroes can work great - as long as the focus is more about the couple and their relationship and less on how bad ass the hero is.