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Who Do You Love? Alpha or Beta Heroes?

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to write about today and then I read an interview with Ruthie Knox. Ruthie’s new book About Last Night comes out next week. I thought the release date was today, so I was quite disappointed to find out I’m a week early. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I love Ruthie’s first book and I’ve been waiting forever for this one.

For those of you who like free books, I plan to do a giveaway of Ruthie’s book next week since you lost out on an extra raffle chance here during the Diamond Jubilee celebration.

Anyway, in the interview, Ruthie talks about Beta heroes. I totally agree with her when she says that most readers equate beta with weenie.

In fact, I was probably one of those readers.

Then I started writing.

I love an alpha hero. There’s something about a strong man who takes charge. Alphas tend to be possessive and controlling. Maybe even a little caveman-ish. And it’s very satisfying to watch him come undone over a woman.

I’ve spoken before about the adage “write what you know.” My first manuscripts were romantic suspense because that’s what I read. Both of those heroes had a military background. (I’m married to a Marine.)

Both of those manuscripts, while a great learning experience, didn’t fit me. Then I started to write contemporary romance. My debut, More Than This, has been through a ton of revisions because I was still finding my voice, and because I needed to learn to let the characters be themselves.

Part of me is always drawn to writing an alpha, mostly because in my mind, an alpha is a take-charge kind of guy and a beta kind of just lets things happen. I’ve tried to make my heroes be alpha when they didn’t want to be.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned that a beta hero is not a weenie, and he also takes charge when he needs to.

But I think I like Ruthie’s definition best. A beta hero is a “fundamentally nurturing person.”

Reading that single line rang so true to me, I had to stop. It was a total revelation.

Holy shit. I write beta heroes.

Ruthie goes on to say that while beta heroes are strong, they’re less likely to impose their will on others. Even looking back to my first manuscripts, one of those two heroes is clearly beta. I just didn’t realize it back then.

As I started writing this blog post and thinking about the other heroes I’ve written, it’s become more obvious. Using Ruthie’s definition, all of my heroes are beta (except for maybe one). I have a manuscript of a finished book that I need to revise and part of why I’ve continued to write other things instead of revising is because I know the hero is a mess in that book. Now I realize that once again, I tried to make a guy an alpha who is really a beta. I’m still not sure how to fix him, but that’s a problem for a different day.

Even my hero in book 2, who is a self-made millionaire, is a beta. In my current WIP, the hero is a laid back party guy, also a beta.

How did this happen? It’s not like I spend a lot of time trying to define my heroes, or that I try to write a certain type. For me, my characters are people that develop in my head and I haven’t thought much about labeling them until now. Some days, I love being a writer. Today is one of those days. I love it when something just clicks. 🙂

Do you think about hero type when you choose a book? Do you prefer one (alpha/beta) over another? Finally, are there certain occupations that you think you need to be an alpha for? (Can a cop be a beta?)

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About Shannyn Schroeder

Mom of 3, editor, and contemporary romance writer

6 responses »

  1. Next Monday — so not quite a week to wait! 🙂

    Glad to have been responsible for a helpful epiphany. Now as to whether I’m right about beta heroes, who knows? Seems like there are dozens of different definitions out there.

    Reply
    • I think you are right with your definition, especially since it fits my heroes 🙂 And a week is a long time to wait when I’ve been staring at your cover as Sue Grimshaw’s avatar on Twitter for like 2 months. Such a tease.

      Reply
  2. I also agree that Beta should not equal weenie, but I think a lot of others define it that way. I’m calling Nev an “alphabeta.”

    Reply
  3. I think that nearly anyone can be a leader in the right circumstances. Betas can be consensus leaders, herding his people in the right direction a bit more subtly than Alphas do. I believe that betas, in both fiction and real life, are heavlily under estimated and under studied.

    Reply
  4. Alpha heroes seem to be more popular in across romance genres. I’m okay with them, but if you have a strong alpha hero, I need a strong alpha heroine. I hate when the heroine goes into damsel-in-distress mode and doesn’t stand up to her alpha. Now, beta heroes look like they’re making a play in romance as of late, and frankly, I’m happy to see it. I like variety. 🙂

    Reply

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