Friday, December 14, 2012

Alphabeta soup

One of the problems of writing hero point of view is keeping your guy a guy. He’s looking out into the world, and any introspection is a brief lifting of the lid rather than the full rummage into the bottom of the psychic suitcase that women (okay, this woman) enjoys.
There’s no, ‘Hey, there’s where I left that old guilt…if I let out the seams I think it’ll still fit me.”
I’m a very hero-centric writer. Most of my story ideas start with an idea around a hero and as a reader he’s the most important element in a romance for me.
So I’m always interested in the ongoing discussion about alpha versus beta heroes on reader/writer blogs and boards. Is he a tough warrior alphahole or an affable, easygoing friend?
I read an interesting comment by Ruthie Knox here where she described alphas as having the tendency to lead and betas the tendency to nurture.
My hero preference as a reader is alpha with a sense of humour
I think the stereotypical “alpha male” is a leader who has to learn to nurture the heroine — or perhaps who doesn’t instinctively nurture, but is compelled to care for the heroine. Whereas my idea of a stereotypical “beta male” is someone who’s more of a follower, who nurtures instinctively."
Recently I came across a blog that talked about delta’s (‘normal’ guys) and gamma’s (introspective, socially unskilled) and omega’s (social losers).
But the category that intrigued me as a romance reader and writer was sigmas.

“The outsider who doesn't play the social game and manages to win at it anyhow. The sigma is hated by alphas because sigmas are the only men who don't accept or at least acknowledge, however grudgingly, their social dominance.
In a social situation, the sigma is the man who stops in briefly to say hello to a few friends accompanied by a Tier 1 girl that no one has ever seen before. Sigmas like women, but tend to be contemptuous of them. They are usually considered to be strange. They are at the top of the social hierarchy despite their refusal to play by its rules. Sigmas usually acquired their outsider status the hard way; one seldom becomes immune to the social hierarchy by virtue of mass popularity in one's childhood.”

Sounds like our archetypical bad boy doesn’t it? James Dean, Dirty Harry, Wolverine. Except the description applies equally well to Sherlock Holmes as played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series.

So who’s your favorite fictional hero, movie or books? Is he alpha, beta, sigma or in a class of his own?


Mary Preston said...

I'll take Benedict Cumberbatch thank you. He brings so much to the role of Sherlock. Certainly at odds with the rest of the world & no tolerance for anyone who is not is intellectual equal - that would be everyone else I guess.

Snookie said...

I like a hero who is strong, caring and treats women, children and animals with respect. They can be alpha, beta, gamma, sigma, delta, whatever, as long as they meet that criteria. I definitely don't like alphaholes. They give alphas a bad rep.

Beth Andrews said...

Great post, Karina! I love all kinds of heroes (and heroines - don't get me started talking about archetypes or I'll never stop *g*) as long as they're well-rounded and real.

The hero in my current WIP is very much a Best Friend archetype which is different for me as I tend to lean toward Bad Boys or Lost Souls. But it's fun writing one of the Nice Guys :-)

Pamela Hearon said...

My favorite fictional hero of all times is Jamie Frasier from Diana Galbadon's Outlander series. Jamie is a man's man and a leader, which one would think would make him an alpha. But I see him as a beta because he ne nas a fabulous nurturing side with everyone that is just part of his nature--and I think that trait (his desire to take care of those he cares about) gives him alpha tendencies. Obviously, he's very complex.
And did I mention YUMMY??? :-)

Rogenna Brewer said...

Hmm...there are so many heroes to love :)

Karina Bliss said...

Mary, isn't Benedict great! I'm interested to see how Marin Freeman as Dr Watson metamorphosises in The Hobbit.

Snookie, I think you're right. Alphas need their own sub-grouping. They're wonderful when they're written well.

Beth, I remember you being a keen hero watcher. I look forward to reading about your nice guy. Was it hard to come up with conflict?

Pamela...Jamie Fraser works so well because he's such a mass of fascinating contradictions that add up to a memorable character. He seems to be on most reader's top ten hero list.

Rogenna, thank you for fixing my posting problem!

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