Beta Heroes: Why You Should Write One (…and How)

by Katie Gowrie

It would be an understatement to say alpha heroes are popular in romance novels. Something about a guy who’s tall, dark and in control is just so appealing. But the romance genre encompasses all kinds of heroes, like gamma heroes (a hybrid of beta and alpha), and theta heroes (the dark and wounded lone wolf). A longtime brother of the alpha hero in romance is the beta hero.

So, what’s the difference? This is tough—beta heroes are arguably more complex than alphas. Like my home and native land, Canada, the definition for a beta might lie in what he’s not. He’s not an alpha—perhaps less prone to unexpected fits of jealousy, making commands, and doing things for the heroine’s own good (often without her knowledge) :). The beta hero is often gentler, kinder, more laid back. He’s the charming guy next door, the patient single dad, the nerdy younger brother. *heart eyes emoji*

If you’re thinking of writing a beta hero for your next romance novel but you’re not sure where to start, here are our top tips:

  1. Write with the right mindset.

Beta heroes aren’t passive-aggressive, boring, wet-blanket heroes, as some would suggest. Betas and alphas showcase their masculinity in their own way, and they’re both oh-so-swoonworthy. But don’t write it if you don’t love it. You’ll know, and your readers will know. Write what fits with your story, and your heroine. How will your hero’s personality help dictate the action of the plot, or vice versa? Embrace the beta —but don’t try to fit the square beta peg into the proverbial round hole.

  1. The sky’s the limit.

Remember when I said beta heroes can be complex? Take that and run with it! Writing a beta hero allows for lots of diversity. Don’t feel you need to write within boxes labelled Demanding Billionaire CEO, Rakish Viscount or The Literal Alpha: Leader of a Werewolf Pack (that’s true even of alphas!). You love those guys—I love those guys. But there’s room to cast a wide net: is your next hero a dedicated violin teacher, a hilarious blogger, or a genius white-water rafting guide?

  1. Even out the playing field.

Romances with beta heroes often show the hero as a partner, rather than a leader. That’s not to say he can’t lead—he’s simply open to sharing that role. While there’s something to be said about a gorgeous guy who takes charge, how can you resist a hero who wants to do things with his partner rather than for her? Write scenes that explore friendship between the H&H, and make room for humour! A hero who can make the heroine laugh, one whose partner will inevitably become their best friend, is often the most memorable kind.

 4. Actions speak as loud as words?

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: the words on the page. This romance writer suggests we consider everything from dialogue to gestures to inner monologue. Does your beta hero make a statement, or is he more likely to ask a question? Does he stride or does he step? Is his inner monologue closed off, or is it a bit more open?

  1. And finally, strike a balance.

If nothing in life is black-and-white, should it be in books? It’s tough to write a post about heroes without categorizing these guys and folding them neatly into their respective drawers. Perhaps this is okay: we romance bookworms love our tropes and the men we’re sure to find there—the story we’re looking for, when we need it. But your characters should be complex and multi-dimensional, like people. In a 50, 000-word manuscript, consistency needs to be considered, but if your hero walks the line between archetypes, that’s okay!