Explaining Alphas and Betas in Romance

We live in the post-Fifty Shades era, and unfortunately that seems to mean that many authors have lost sight of what alpha and beta males truly are. I wanted to take a moment to explain the difference, for anyone who’s curious as well as to remind certain authors of what an alpha male isn’t.

The difference between alpha and beta males is truly rather simple; the qualities a heroine focuses on make the hero either an alpha or beta. If the heroine talks about the safety she feels around the hero, the way he could have any girl he wanted, his ‘commanding presence,’ or so forth, the hero is an alpha male. On the other hand, if she talks about a connection of souls, an emotional bond, or describes the hero as a thoughtful man, he’s a beta male. In other words, if the attraction is based on the fact that the hero is at the top of some invisible totem pole, he’s an alpha; if it’s based on how gentle, kind, or intelligent he is, then he’s a beta.

Again, this entirely depends on the heroine’s perspective. Just as in the real world, two different girls will draw different conclusions (one heroine’s alpha male might seem goofy and annoying to another). Also as with the real world, no man should truly be black or white. A beta male can have rippling muscles, and an alpha could be weak (although that would be slightly difficult to spin).

The difference lies with the heroine, not the hero. In many ways, it also depends on the story. For example, a story about a victim of abuse is more likely to contain an alpha, who the heroine feels might be able to protect her from harm. A story focused on finding a place in the world is more likely to feature a beta, since that need for protection isn’t as apparent.

Personally, I’ve always thought that betas make for better stories. They’re the ones a heroine can be friends with, and build a more equal relationship with; which is, after all, essential for the ‘happily ever after’ myth at the end of the story.

Now, onto what an alpha male isn’t. Or rather, the factors that don’t truly have an effect on a hero’s purpose within the novel:

  1. Have I mentioned that I strongly dislike Billionaire romances? If money affects your heroine’s opinion of the hero, she’s incredibly shallow.
  2. Abusiveness/possessiveness. This one comes up more in the erotica genre (or at least, romances with a sexual relationship). While I understand that some women like to imagine a guy so crazy with lust for them that he acts—well, crazy, the fact that it’s used to show how dominant a male is just makes me cringe. It’s not healthy in the real world, so don’t glorify it in a novel.

In the end, all of the above is correct and yet incorrect. Which is to say, what’s true for me might not be true for anyone else. There are generally accepted standards for alpha and beta males within romance, but those standards can change over time.

There are no alphas or betas, except in our minds. People aren’t nearly so simple, thankfully, and the beta of one story might be a heroic alpha in another. On a slightly off-topic note, has anyone ever read a story with a (physically) weak alpha? I’d be interested to read it.

I hope you all enjoy the post. If you do, please like, share or leave a comment!

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