Everyone knows what an ALPHA male is – the dominent leader of the wolf pack, as it were. Cold, hard, decisive…”Just the facts, ma’am.” They abound in paranormal and erotic romance. Vampires and shapeshifters, cops and military, princes and sheiks and CEOs. They’re the take-charge-we’re-doing-this-MY-way type. Decisive men of action. J.R. Ward, Lora Leigh, Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lori Foster, Angela Knight and Suzanne Brockmann are all romance writers I LOVE whose heroes predominently run in this vein.
The downside is, these guys walk a fine line. In my last Fantasy Friday chat, one of the readers comments that it’s so easy for an Alpha strong-and-silent type to cross the line and be a close-minded bully. Definitely these guys have a tendency to stand their ground. They aren’t known for bending. Sometimes they don’t play well with others. They often don’t follow the rules. They have their place in romantic fiction and real life. Some things can’t be settled by committee and there are times when the ability to assess, decide and act QUICKLY can be a matter of life and death. Someone has to take charge and lead, someone had to make the tough decisions, someone has to willing to stick their neck out there and shoulder the consequences.
Then there are the BETAS. These guys are the thinkers, the diplomats, the listeners. They’re able to admit they don’t have all the answers and can yield the floor to the experts. They have the ability to laugh at themselves. They’re a shoulder to cry on and a strong arm to lift you up. They’re not afraid to speak their mind, and listen to the opinions of others. They can see the other POV, even if they don’t agree with it. They tend to consider all potential ramifications and outcomes. They adapt.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a beta male is a pushover, though. They tend to get a bum rap in fiction, as if anything short of an alpha male is “weak.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Mercedes Lackey, Sandra Hill, Gail Dayton and Michelle Hauf have all written spectacular beta heroes that like to laugh and have fun and can let the heroine take the lead. They’re always thinking, always learning. They’re able and willing to voice doubts and fears and feelings. They listen to the heroine’s.
Personally, I write beta heroes. All my guys are leaders – princes and paladins, warriors and healers. But they all have moments of second-guessing themselves, they all share thoughts and feelings, they all have the ability to step back and follow the heroine’s lead. Loren never wanted to be king. Cianan had to handle Maleta with kid gloves. Trystan encouraged Finora when she’d lost all hope. Benilo healed an enemy and brought together warring factions. Aryk united a country so children could face a future without bloodshed and death. They all preached – and practiced – patience and understanding. Fighting was always a last resort – but they were good at it. Betas can be men of action – fighting’s just not their first choice.
Alphas vs. Betas. They both have their place, and the world is richer for the variety – both the real world and the fictitious realms. I enjoy reading both types, depending on my mood at the moment. Which do YOU like to read, and why?