Adite Banerjie | Paromita Goswami | Preethi Venugopala | Reet Singh | Ruchi Singh | Saiswaroopa Iyer | Sudesna Ghosh
H for Heroes
The alpha hero
This is the most common type of heroes in romance novels. He’s especially popular in the steamier stories such as erotic romance, as well as in paranormal romance. A classic alpha hero is confident (sometimes cocky), strong and determined. He knows what he wants and how to get it. That reflects in his physical traits: he’s tall and often muscled, he looks sexy, he wears stylish clothes, drives fast cars, exudes power. He’ll be possessive or at least protective. Sometimes he has a rakish edge. Sometimes he is the leader of a gang or group, clique or pack. Some alpha heroes have matching jobs, such as CEO or SEAL, or are in positions of power and used to being in charge (billionaires with their wealth are an example). Vampires, werewolves and other shifters are usually alpha males.
Precisely because alpha heroes are so common and popular with romance readers, it helps to distinguish one’s protagonist from the rest. Give him an unusual job that also mirrors his take-charge attitude. Or give him a weakness or memorable character trait to contrast all that bravado and macho demeanour. Otherwise he’s so stereotypical that he won’t be remembered for long.
The beta hero
Yes, beta comes after alpha (B after A), and that basically sums up this type of protagonist. The beta hero is a softie but not an omega (last one down in the hierarchy/weakling). He’s caring, often sensitive, honest and loyal, sometimes a bit too nice or confused. His sweetness makes him attractive and relationship material whereas alpha heroes often seem to inspire ‘attraction at first sight’ rather than ‘love at first sight’. Some beta heroes are best friends, (single) fathers or somewhat elder men but that isn’t a hard rule. YA romance might lean towards the ‘softer’ heroes who in the end prove themselves to be special.
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Careful when you write a gentleman as the ‘leading man’. He should not come across as a wimp or someone who has no idea what he wants. Sure, he can be quiet, maybe a nerd or geek, an introvert or someone whose past has made him vulnerable. But he should also be ‘strong’ enough to drive the plot forward and to warrant attention. In a sweet/clean romance, beta heroes are quite common. They can use qualities like a sense of humour, intelligence or kindness as their biggest strength. But don’t make the mistake of turning them into goody-two-shoes. Charming heroes need a fault too, or there won’t be true conflict.
Yup, in romance novels, even the bad boys can be the heroes. Whether it’s a sub-genre like dark romance, paranormal romance or erotica, the main protagonists tend to be rough around the edges. They’re dominant, have a volatile temperament, tend to not show their emotions or motivations or even are real bad guys by behaving rather atrociously. Sometimes, they’re written as notorious womanizers, as BDSM fans or as scarred former heroes who’ve turned anti-hero due to something that happened to them. Some seek revenge, others seek adventures, yet others seek the thrill of risky behaviour or illegal scheming. Some are written as Mafiosi, gangsters, ex-military or shifters. Not all bad boys in the romance genre are necessary tragic heroes, and they should not be confused with villains either.
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If one wants to write an anti-hero as the main male character and ‘love interest’, he needs at least some redeeming feature. It’s not enough to make him sexy as sin because ultimately physical attraction doesn’t lead to a believable ‘happily ever after’. Give him a family member he cares for, a tame hobby, a good deed. Perhaps he first imprisons the heroine, then ends up helping her escape? Or he grew hard and unfeeling due to the circumstances but his heart thaws and he learns from past mistakes?
There are other types of heroes, such as the brooding hero, the tragic hero or the warrior hero, but ultimately they fit into one of the three bigger categories – or they’re a mix of some characteristics of each category. Which romance hero type is your favourite? Tell me in the comments.