The alpha male—who wants him?

A chimp fixes the photographer with an arrogant expression.I follow lots of fellow romance readers on Twitter. Many rhapsodize about “alpha males,” while the very idea of an all-powerful hero sets my teeth on edge.

And then I realized we might not be talking about the same thing.

The alpha hero you can keep, thank you

My old idea of “alpha male”:

  • Is accustomed to being obeyed
  • Interrupts his lessers when they speak (and we’re all his lessers)
  • Considers apologies a sign of weakness
  • Takes control because he “knows what’s best for you”

In other words, a self-righteous jerk. In real life, I prefer to walk away from these types. If they appear in my writing, they’re secondary characters or antagonists, not the hero.

I like a hero who respects other people, even when he disagrees with them. I want him to make an attempt at seeing things from his adversary’s perspective, even if compromise proves impossible.

Do we need alphabetical labels?

Is respect an “alpha” or a “beta” characteristic? What about kindness? Are all nice guys “beta?” If I don’t know the difference, how do I choose romances I’m likely to enjoy reading? How do I tell readers what to expect from my books?

Before my brain explodes with questions, how ‘bout we accept “alpha” as a synonym for “prime,” as in first choice, or ideal. That way, there’s room for every preference.

The alpha hero I love

Here then, is my new idea of “alpha”:

  • Lives his values, leads by example
  • A knowledge seeker
  • Doesn’t give up in the face of setbacks
  • Admits his faults and overcomes his failures
  • Fights to defend, not destroy
  • Courageous
  • Willing to grow and change

I have men like this in my life. I admire and adore them. Small wonder I seek similarly wonderful book boyfriends.

Your list may be different. I respect that. A wonderful thing about the romance genre is its diversity. And if you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear about the type of hero that wins your heart.


Photo: Tambako the Jaguar

2 Replies to “The alpha male—who wants him?”

  1. I shouldn’t have been surprised that we’re on the same page, Sally. This is a good one! I occasionally have been criticized that my hero is too beta, and it’s nice to know there’s at least one person out there who would recognize him as an…evolved?…alpha!

    1. Faith, I reckon there are quite a few of us who prefer to see romantic relationships as partnerships. Please keep writing them and I’ll do the same!

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