So H is for: Heroes!
A few years ago I had taken an online class entitled: “Can this Manuscript Be Saved?” There was a section called the characterization part. That was a section particularly helpful to go over if you’ve ever had a rejection saying they hated your main character or characters, or couldn't relate to them. Good stuff.
Anyhew, the discussion grew to "beta and alpha" heroes and their actions/reactions. Well, the author, Susan Meier, admitted she used distinctions between the two in workshops but that when she writes she doesn’t write alpha or beta—usually a combo or maybe she starts out one way and the character evolves to another.
So I thought, “YES! Hey, me too!"
Which is funny, because I once had an old critique partner say she was “worried about my alpha hero because he waffled beta”. Of course, my first thought when I’d received the critique was, “My hero’s an alpha?”
I had no idea. I hadn't planned it. When I first started writing I didn't even know there were types of heroes!
So what are the differences in heroes?
The Alpha Hero: According to romance author Kate Walker, "The term Alpha comes from the animal kingdom – the Alpha wolf is the leader of the pack. The Boss. He has won his place by strength, courage, fortitude and sheer power. He rules the rest of the pack with the same qualities. He has to, or the pack will not survive – certainly, if the Alpha loses his grip on the rest, someone will rise up against him, defeat him and rule in his place. The other reward of being the Alpha wolf is that he gets the best females – mates with the very best – breeds wonderful cubs. But along with his success and his rewards as Alpha Wolf – he has a lot of responsibilities – he has to protect his own – defend the females and the cubs from invading marauders, make sure he takes them where the hunting is good. That’s an ALPHA.
And the Alpha hero has to have those qualities. He has to be successful- a man of achievement. Independent. A ruler – a man of power. Strong, handsome, vigorous. A leader. In human societies, the signs of success are wealth and power – and so the Alpha hero has to have the outward trappings – those visible signs of success that the world values – money, houses, cars, businesses . . . "
The Beta hero: author Michele R. Bardsley says, "In line with his "best friend" qualities, a beta hero makes a great sudden daddy—he adjusts more easily to than an alpha male. He's also an excellent role model: Women think he's sweet, kids know he'll play catch or tea party, bosses know they can rely on him to get last-minute projects completed, and men know they can trust him with their girlfriends.
Beta heroes need to grow, change, learn. Nice doesn't equal perfect. An easygoing guy who's funny and sweet hides his feelings more effectively and feels pain more deeply than an alpha hero (who will, when angry or upset, stomp around, growl, and hit stuff). A beta hero hides his pain behind a smile, a joke, or a quiet reserve. A beta hero is more likely to walk away from a confrontation or do what he believes the heroine wants than to stand his ground and fight it out. This isn't wimp behavior because he's not afraid for himself, he's afraid for the person he cares about.
The beta hero: © Is kind, responsible, decent © Doesn't enjoy confrontation, but won’t back down on an issue he wants resolved © Is always available to the heroine or to others who need his help © Is an extrovert or an introvert © Is practical, down to earth, assesses situations before making decisions © Has a great sense of humor © Tends to be Mr. Nice Guy/Everyday Joe © Is the kind neighbor, the best friend, the good Samaritan.
Then there's... The Gamma Hero: author Deb Stover defined the Gamma hero this way and said, "A Gamma is... One who doesn't fit the image of the macho Alpha male, or the easygoing Beta either. He's a combination--a mutation?--of both types of man, and makes a hero to die for. One reader suggested Mel Gibson and Sean Connery as actor examples of the "Gamma" hero. That definitely works for me. I'd also like to suggest Tom Selleck, who comes across as almost Beta at times, though still has enough Alpha to make him appeal to readers who prefer a tougher hero. Also Harrison Ford would fall into this description. He's definitely Gamma material in Star Wars!
In books? Susan Elizabeth Phillips takes true Alpha males and captures their tenderness, but doesn't quite change them to Gamma heroes. They're still Alpha males. Jill Barnett's heroes are often of the Gamma variety--tough but tender. Mike Faricy in my Some Like it Hotter is my first Gamma hero. My earlier ones have been Beta all the way. I think he's the one who made me coin a new term to describe him. He's gritty--Alpha--but not completely....
I love the idea of the gamma male. Many readers, while loving a beta male in real life, find them a bit too wimpy in a romance. And, often alpha heroes are too bitter and mean for readers to fall in love with. Some of the listers tried to describe actors who fall into each category, including Alan Alda and Tom Hanks as beta, Bruce Willis and Steven Segal as alpha, and Mel Gibson and Adrian Paul as gamma."
Interesting! I really don’t start off pigeon-holing my heroes when I write, but just based on the kind of stories I write, there is just an natural evolution of personality. But I always think it’s funny when a tough guy finds his soft spot because of that special woman and does things "out of character". But I don't think that makes my heroes Gamma. So far, I've written Beta Heroes all the way. Some may find that kind of hero boring, but I really love them. But, hey, that's just me. :-)
If you're a writer, what kind of heroes do you usually write? If you're a reader, what kind of heroes do like to read about?