Posted On June 5, 2017 by Print This Post

Nice Is The New Sexy: Creating a Swoonworthy Beta Hero By Elizabeth Harmon

Welcome back to Elizabeth Harmon with her post on Beta Heroes! The nice guy doesn’t always finish last! =)

Larger-than-life, wealthy, commanding, the Alpha hero is the fantasy man woman dream of.  With the recent popularity of dark romance, we’re also getting to know his more extreme cousin, Alphahole, whose hellish behavior leads to a Big Grovel which leads to the HEA.

But I think there’s something to be said for a good-hearted guy who gets it right the first time—sans grovel.  Meet the kinder, gentler beta hero.

Too often, he’s stereotyped as wimpy, average…and worst of all, boring.  A few (admittedly dated) romance writing guides consider him persona non grata.  Which is a shame, because as a reader and a writer, he’s the one I swoon for.

One of the best descriptions I’ve found for the Beta is the Best Friend hero archetype in The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines.  The Best Friend is a kind-hearted team player who brings out the best in others. He is confident, supportive, and emotionally mature.

Emotionally mature. That right there is one of the things I find most appealing about him.  This isn’t a hero the heroine must tame, transform or reign in.

Many Beta Heroes have a significant disadvantage they must overcome, including some the Alpha may not face- such as a lack of wealth, social position, or a disability. Despite past suffering or present challenges, he hasn’t lost his humanity, kindness or his capacity to love.

Reversing traditional romance-novel dynamics, the Beta can be younger, less sexually experienced or from a lower social class than the heroine.

But just as Alphas can be kind, sensitive, artistic or generous, Betas can be confident, wealthy, brave and resourceful.

Star Wars’ Han Solo is a great example.  In the first film he was cool, cocky and a little arrogant.  But the Empire Strikes Back shows a different side.  He still has that cocky charm, but love has brought out his loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others.  He’s also confident enough to accept a supporting, second in command role to Alpha heroine Leia.

Which version of Han do you prefer? If it’s the one in Empire, you might consider making your next romance hero a Beta.

How do you go about writing one?

Like any character, the Beta starts with a believable background. What life experiences made him who he is?  Was he the good son, who tried to make up for a rebellious sibling? Did his parents’ unhappy marriage, or illness, force him to become a caregiver or a peacemaker?  Was he the super-responsible big brother, the eager to please middle, or the adored baby? Was he bullied, or was he the kid everybody liked?

Flaws are essential to multi-faceted characters and the Beta hero is no exception. A good place to find his flaws is to look at the flipside of some of his good qualities.  Does being responsible frustrate him or keep him from pursuing his dreams? Does he get tired of cleaning up others’ messy lives? Perhaps his easy-going nature makes him complacent.  These are all great sources of internal conflict.

Since fiction is built on conflict and the Beta hero by nature is a low conflict guy, how do we keep our story moving forward?

Rather than a direct clash, which keeps the heroine and hero fighting on every page, the story is driven by a problem to be solved or a mutual goal.  The romantic tension between the couple only complicates matters.

In my novel Pairing Off, Anton and Carrie must work together to attain their shared goal—Olympic gold. Conflict stems from external forces (a rival pair, Carrie’s family, a ticking clock) and internal forces (Carrie’s struggle to trust and let go of the past).  Nice Guy Anton has some internal issues too, but the real focus of the book is Carrie.

Here’s another great way a Beta hero can enhance a romance.

While both romantic partners need a character arc, usually one undergoes a greater transformation, while the other is the catalyst for the change.  In a Big Grovel romance, it’s the hero who changes, to become worthy of the more emotionally mature heroine.

But in stories where it’s the heroine who transforms, a Beta hero works great in the role of catalyst.  Calm and steady, kind and caring, he’s able to give the heroine what she needs emotionally in order to grow and change.

In my new release Heating It Up: A Red Hot Russians Novella, Nora is mourning the death of her fiance and the loss of her career.  She’s hiding out in an empty guesthouse in Antarctica, and as head of a nearby research station, Alexei has the authority to force her out.  But instead of a heavy hand, he uses a gentle touch. His compassion and willingness to take things slowly, helps Nora to feel less isolated, and take the difficult first step toward healing.

Have you ever tried writing a Beta hero? Do you enjoy reading romances with a sweet hero, and what are your favorites? Post a comment to win a digital copy of Pairing Off, the first book in the Red Hot Russians series.

And be sure to add a couple of these Beta hero romances to your summer reading list!
Contemporary                                                 

Fallen From Grace- Laura Leone

Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar- Pamela Morsi

Red Hot Russians (series)-Elizabeth Harmon

YA/NA

Slammed- Colleen Hoover

Fangirl- Rainbow Rowell                                                

Paranormal/Sci Fi                                           

The Firelord’s Lover- Kathryne Kennedy

Contact- Susan Grant

Erotic Romance                                               

Domme-Nation (series)- Mina Vaughn

Romantic Suspense

SWAT Secret Admirer- Elizabeth Heiter

Historical/Traditional Regency

The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie- Jennifer Ashley

Her Ladyship’s Companion-Evangeline Collins

In Search of Scandal- Susanne Lord

The Leopard Prince- Elizabeth Hoyt

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Don’t forget to tune in on Wednesday!

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Bio: Contemporary romance author Elizabeth Harmon loves to read and write romances with a dash of different. She is the author of the Red Hot Russians sports romance series. Her debut novel Pairing Off is a 2016 RITA® Award Finalist.

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26 Responses to “Nice Is The New Sexy: Creating a Swoonworthy Beta Hero By Elizabeth Harmon”

  1. Morning Elizabeth and thanks for joining us again today!

    One of my favorite beta heroes was in Nora Roberts Vision in White. He was a school teacher and just the nicest, sweetest guy (without being completely run over!). By the end of that book, I’d changed my mind about Alpha heroes forever. =)

    Gotta love the nice guys every once in awhile too!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Peters | June 5, 2017, 7:56 am
    • If I’m not mistaken, his name is Carter. I’ve heard so much about this book and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I’m going to order it today! Thanks for having me back on Romance U- it’s always a pleasure.

      Posted by Elizabeth Harmon | June 5, 2017, 10:08 am
  2. I LOVE this post! While I know the alpha male is the most popular, I’ve just never been a fan–all my swooning is reserved for the nice guy/best friend. In fact, I married one. 🙂 Which is why all the heroes I write are beta guys.

    I’m glad to see them getting more love. There’s room for both kinds of heroes in the literary world, so thanks for beating the drum for them, Elizabeth!

    Posted by Linda Fletcher | June 5, 2017, 8:06 am
    • Linda, I’m delighted to give more love to these very deserving heroes, and am so happy you enjoyed the post. I also married a nice guy/best friend and find them easy to write with a great example right in front of me. Thanks for commenting.

      Posted by Elizabeth Harmon | June 5, 2017, 10:12 am
  3. I *adore* the so-called beta hero.

    As a writer, it feels as if there is so left to explore when it comes to betas. I think they can be as strong and determined, but with out the domineering, overbearing “alpha” expectations.

    Thank you for the reading list!

    Posted by Janet | June 5, 2017, 10:31 am
    • I agree Janet! I love stories that focus on a heroine’s changes, rather than having her start out perfectly actualized on page one. A beta hero is a great fit, because to support the heroine through her transformation, he needs the strength and determination to understand her struggles. Thanks for commenting.

      Posted by Elizabeth Harmon | June 5, 2017, 11:15 am
  4. I enjoy the beta hero much more than the chest beating alphas. Their growth is much more satisfying and complete, especially when the heroine realizes that the alpha has nothing to offer her. And their often geeky professions or hobbies add to their charm.
    Plus, they don’t stop in front of every mirror they pass.

    Posted by Randy Brown | June 5, 2017, 10:54 am
    • Randy, you should check out Shannyn Schroeder’s Hot and Nerdy series if you haven’t already! One guy is an artist and comix nerd. The hero of my second Red Hot Russians book is a male stripper who writes horror novels on the side. Though he does look in the mirror from time to time, it’s part of the job! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Posted by Elizabeth Harmon | June 5, 2017, 11:22 am
  5. I love your post on Beta heroes. I’m married to a swoon-worthy beta hero. I feel like you’ve given me permission to write heroes like him. Thanks!

    Posted by Jackie Layton | June 5, 2017, 4:07 pm
  6. Hi Elizabeth,

    Good post!

    Beta heroes are easier to write, more identifiable, and they possess a quiet strength.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 5, 2017, 4:09 pm
  7. We need an Authors Who Write Beta Heroes group.

    Posted by Janet | June 6, 2017, 4:26 pm
  8. I never connected best friend heroes with beta heroes, but now that you mention it, I definitely get the attraction. Thanks for an eye-opening post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 6, 2017, 8:30 pm
  9. OK, ladies (and any gentlemen interested).

    I’ve set up a FB page–Good Guys and Women Who Write Them.

    Anyone interested? I’d love to create a community to exchange ideas and support.

    https://www.facebook.com/Good-Guys-and-Women-Who-Write-Them-1079917565472570/

    Posted by Janet | June 7, 2017, 11:45 am
  10. This post comes at a perfect time. A couple of days ago I was think Todd (hero) was a really sweet guy with some backstory, but nice. And the heroine is tough and has a shield a mile deep. So I was wondering how to make Todd into an alpha. But after reading this, he’s perfect just the way he is–especially after accomplishing his arc. Thanks!!!

    Posted by Judi Phillips | June 8, 2017, 11:36 am
  11. Just finishing up one beta hero romance and getting ready to start another, so this is very timely. Thanks!

    One of my favorite beta heroes is Seth in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely. He contrasts beautifully with the alpha Keenan, who would like to be the hero of this romance.

    Posted by Jeanne | June 9, 2017, 6:50 am
  12. Love the fact that a beta hero can still be a fighter and kickass if need be. I;ll fly left seat to Han Solo anytime. Now that I’ve read the post I realize I wrote at least one Beta into The Dragshi Chronicles. But I’m not telling who.

    Posted by HELEN HENDERSON | July 9, 2017, 1:03 pm

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