Most everyone has heard of Alpha males, and the majority of romance novels feature Alpha males as the hero. For those who don’t know, an Alpha male is the head/slash leader. He is superior to other males in nearly every aspect (e.g., strength, charm, looks, health, athletic skills, wealth, and sexual confidence). Who doesn’t love an Alpha? Well, not everyone. The problem with Alpha males in many romances is that they are written like arrogant jerks who everyone cowards. Yes, they are tall, dark, and handsome and have redeemable (if not lovable) characteristics. However, much of the time to me, they come across as being over-the-top, unrealistic, entitled, one-note cardboard characters. Yuck!
Take for example, Alpha Joe. Joe is an ex-navy seal. His father died when he was in high school, and Joe became the man of the house, taking care of his mother and younger siblings. He has dark hair, dreamy eyes, and a 24-pack abdomen because 6 just wasn’t enough. Women swoon from his cologne and their panties saturate at his wink. He is founder and CEO of a successful, private security business and has all the right connections in town. He is rolling in money, and his wardrobes consists of tailored suits and too-tight jeans with black t-shirts—whichever suits his moot and portrays him as Mr. Bad Ass.
Everyone knows Joe and his reputation proceeds him. Anywhere he goes, men fear his temper and are careful not to anger him. A verbal reprimand or a stern glance causes others to quake. Other men either are vying to be his ride or die bro or despise him out of jealousy. A gray area does not exist. If Joe gets into a fight, he wins—usually hands down with not much effort, sort of a Superman verses Harry Lyme and Marv Merchants (Home Alone movie criminals) scenario. If the Alpha gets injured during it, he carries on as if nothing happened or has a speedy recovery time despite the seriousness the injury. No, that gunshot wound to the head is a mere inconvenience and annoyance. He’s courageous, tough, fearless, commanding, and demanding in all that he does, and he always gets his way.
Enters Jane, the petite beauty who weighs nothing and is gorgeous without a stitch of makeup. Her breasts are perky. Her hair windblown but still shampoo commercial ready. She probably comes up to Joe’s elbow, which makes her very easy for him to scoop up if he needed to—and he will. She’s fashionable, and her stilettos actuates her legs but don’t hurt her feet after eighteen hours of wear.
Now Jane is either going to be spitfire whose mouth writes checks her butt truly can’t cash or very timid, meek, and innocent. It doesn’t matter which one because she’ll need “rescuing” by Joe. She may be willing to accept his help and follow his every word or so inept that she digs her own hole into a crater. In either instance, she is attracted to Joe, the demigod who only has eyes for her. Even if she is the homeliest woman in the state and as awkward as an elephant on rollerskates, Joe wouldn’t side eye a runway model.
The thing about Joe is, he has a dark side that stems from his past. He might suffer from nightmares or restlessness. Anger rages inside of him, but he’s stoic and never communicates his feelings, which causes him to be emotionally unavailable and aloof to women. His brooding is seen as “sexy” and mysterious, and his jerkish (e.g., aggressive, sexist, self-centered, controlling, and difficult) behavior “excused”. But Jane just with a touch, gaze, or romp in the sheets can cure Joe’s PTSD without the need for years of professional therapy or psychotropic medication.
I hated characters like Joe (and Jane, too, to be honest). These types of Joes were 1-D Alphas (and the D didn’t necessarily stand for “dimensional”). But as a woman, I wanted to read about a strong male lead—a manly man worthy of fantasies. Stage left: Sigma male.
Not many people discuss Sigmas (or any other types) in the role of male Greek-letter archetypes, but they should. So, what are the other male archetypes? Well…
After Alpha comes Beta. Betas follow orders, non-assertive, and present no serious threat to Alphas. They don’t make waves, are mostly docile, easily are kept in line, and help maintain peace and order. They are responsible, likeable, and considerate. When an Alpha isn’t around, Betas hold down the fort, but they won’t ever challenge an Alpha for the position. Betas are often put in the heroine’s “friend” category. He’s there for her, always warm and kind, but never a love interest—even if he’s in love with the heroine.
The best way to describe Gamma males are they exist. For the most part, they are irrelevant. They hang back and do nothing, seek nothing, and offer nothing. This is the character that gets edited out of the book before the final copy (hopefully). However, Gammas shouldn’t be overlooked necessarily. Their go-with-the-flow personalities easily can slide into villain territory since they often are motivated by personal gain and not noted to be the most trustworthy.
Delta males are rarely seen in extended scenes in romances. That is because Deltas are average and normal. They don’t have enough magnetism or allure to be leading men, but they are sometimes necessary to communicate important information to move the plot forward. They are smart, insightful, friendly, open-minded, and frequently helpful when asked. Usually in romances, Delta men generally are written as minor characters.
Next are Zetas. (If you’re wondering the order, I’m listing them alphabetically—Greek.) Zetas are unconventional and don’t give a hoot about societal definitions or expectations of what a man should or should not be. They march to the beat of their own drums and do not seek social acceptance. Zetas are indifferent to seeking relationships with women. They are comfortable being alone, and for this reason, are never hero in romance novels.
At the bottom of the food chain, one finds Omegas. There’s no nice way to say it, but Omegas are the oddballs and freaks. Sometimes, they are the villains while other times they simply add the weirdo factor—the creepy guy who peers from behind the blinds and one wonder what (or who) he has hidden in the basement. Omegas define themselves by the world around them. The problem is, they are social outcasts, lack ambition, and irresponsible. Omegas are common characters in horror and science fiction. They are less seen in romances. However, in the historical fiction, Omegas may present as the rich, eccentric patriarch or relative who hides away in the mansion on the hill.
Alpha have a need to be “top”. When they don’t get their way, there’s a problem, usually resolved with fists flying. But Sigma males march to their own beat. They can be leaders or blend in flawlessly like a Tarte Shape Tape concealer. (Yes, I did just plug them because I love their products, and no, they are not sponsoring this post.) Sigmas are like chilling co-pilots. Just because they roll with the punches on trivial matter doesn’t mean they put up with bull or act as doormats. On the contrary, they handle business when needed. They are the nice guys with witty sense of humors and are equally as handsome and sexually sensational as Alphas. They are flawed, but they manage to suppress being a jackass.
One of the best ways for me to stop a Sigma was usually if I was more interested in a minor male character than the hero–that is until the author decided to write a sequel with the Sigma as the lead and transformed into another run-of-the-mill butthole Alphas. But before that happened, the Sigma often was written as a good, nonthreatening friend to the Alpha. Nonthreatening, as in, the Sigma fighting for a common goal as the Alpha and not being interested in Jane. However, the Alpha is wise enough not to cross a Sigma because he knows just beneath the surface lies a lion who is willing to go toe-to-toe and tear him from limb-to-limb.
Sigmas don’t seek trouble or bother with defining themselves by traditional stereotypes. They show up at the party with a case of beer and say, “okay, where do you want this?” when they don’t even drink. And usually instead of having a single massive flaw, Sigma have lots of small ones that makes them relatable. They may show insecurities or weaknesses, but they aren’t crippled by them. They may be less “mysterious”, but that’s because they don’t have anything to hide. Their histories usually aren’t as bleak, and they may have a ho-hum background.
What makes Sigmas so much fun is that they can be unpredictable. Their personalities are big and complex. They aren’t afraid to show emotion or vulnerability because they know they can handle them. They don’t feel compelled to be the center of attention because they understand a quarterback can’t win a football game without the rest of the team. They are okay without trophies and praises because their self-worth is sufficient. They show their love for others without being overbearing or domineering. And sometimes, they let the woman take the lead.
However, the best part about Sigmas are they don’t get caught up in stupid love triangles. They aren’t going to stick around while Jane makes up her mind or pound on their chest to get her attention. She either hops on his party train or he’s going to the next station. His baggage is low, so, he can move swiftly. Bye gurl!
When writing, my heroes, although sometimes described as Alphas, are truthfully Sigmas. They laugh and doubt themselves at times. Sometimes, they are the ones who are writing those ISF checks and must discover a solution. I especially enjoy writing them in my MMRomances. There is a tendency to stereotype gay male relationships as one partner having to be “the wife” or one being Alpha and the other being Beta. Heaven forbid they both be equal. These stereotypes need to be changed.
Sigmas are team players who fulfill whatever role is needed at the time, whether it be top, middle, bottom, or alone. Sigmas are there to get the job done, period. Unlike Alphas, Sigmas may not always have a solution or muck it up. But they have the ability to laugh it off and the flexibility to collaborate. While Alphas frequently go in with guns blazing, Sigmas may hang back to see how something plays out. A Sigma may have failures, but they are comfortable enough to exit their comfort zone or accept input. They use constructive criticism to grow.
Want to see Sigma, Alpha, and Beta males in action? They can be found skating about in my new adult sports romance, Defending the Net, released on November 10. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It’s sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.
Missed the first in my hockey romance series? Don’t worry. Out of the Penalty Box, an adult romance where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo.
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