Heroes: Alpha, Beta, and…Gamma? Back to Blog

I think we’re all pretty much familiar with the alpha hero. The tough-as-nails, dominant male who can kick ass and make the heroine fall hard for him all in one romance novel. Sure, the guy can be arrogant, but hey, he’s an alpha, so that pretty much goes with the package.

Then there’s the beta hero.  You don’t usually hear about this guy as much in the pages of a romance novel. The beta, well, he’s the guy you hope to marry in real life. Dependable. Steady. You know, a Nice Guy. (The kind you looked for after you were done playing with the bad boy.)  Although, um, just as an aside, I’ve had a beta hero story dancing in my head forever!

But, ahem, back to my post…

It has come to my attention (thanks to some info on one of my groups), that I’ve been missing out on one more hero. Because, you see, we have alphas, we have betas, and, um, I guess we also have gammas.

A gamma guy.  I didn’t even know there was such a beast. Color me clueless.

So, after I heard the term gamma in reference to a hero, I had to do some googling. Here’s what I found:  The gamma is a combo of the alpha and beta. He’s got all the mad, bad alpha characteristics like being super strong and aggressive and being the guy you turn to if hell is at your door, but he’s not super arrogant. He cares about others (and not just the heroine; the gamma seems to have strong ties to friends and his family).  Folks may think the gamma is the Big Bad, but usually his reputation is undeserved and if you look past the surface, you find a guy who was just misunderstood.

While doing my handy-dandy research, I discovered that some folks think Julie Garwood’s historical heroes were gammas. See, I’d just thought of them as alphas, but, now that I consider it more, I guess those heroes did show a deeper sensitivity.

But what do you think about this whole idea of a gamma hero in romance novels?  Have you seen any good gammas in books or movies that you want to share?

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13 responses to “Heroes: Alpha, Beta, and…Gamma?”

  1. Michelle says:

    LOL, I’ve just been writing a gamma hero, and I didn’t even know it. Colour me clueless right along with you, Cindy 🙂 .

  2. Jess Granger says:

    Well, heck! Soren is gamma. Honestly, I think the modern heroes will trend this way because it is the best of both worlds. You want a hero strong and capable, but not a jerky. And he has to have good Dad potential. They are essentially alphas that don’t need “taming.”

    As long as we don’t see Omega heroes, I think I’m good.


  3. Cynthia Eden says:

    Hi, Michelle! I’ve been doing the same thing! Didn’t even realize it!

    LOL, Jess–now I’m curious about the Omega. My husband read your comment over my shoulder and asked if the Omega would be the anti-Christ. I had to ask for some clarification on that one, but, he’s Greek, and he said Omega is the last of the Greek alphabet (you may know this or, um, not care, but I’m on a tangent and can’t stop!), so it would be anti to the other characters. Hmmm…maybe the Omega hero would be the anti-hero that is becoming so popular these days?

  4. Edie says:

    This is funny, because I just googled gamma about two weeks ago. My heroes are usually gamma in my paranormal books, and either gamma or beta in my women’s fiction.

    Maybe the Omega/anti-Christ hero is the villain. In the sequel he can be the hero.

  5. Ashley says:

    Sounds like the perfect combination to me. I’m creating a gamma in my mind…Vince Diesel meets Patrick Dempsey. Not sure if that fits the definition of a gamma, but it works for me.

  6. Lisa Freeman says:

    A gamma hero brings to mind one of Lori Foster’s heroes. They are super sexy but always family oriented!

  7. azteclady says:

    Hmmm…. I think most of Suzanne Brockmann’s heroes are gamma, then. whodathunkit?

  8. Brandy says:

    Vicki Lewis Thompson’s hero’s come to mind. To be honest, I never pay much attention to the types of hero’s. Just the hero, himself. (Not sure that makes sense.)

  9. Jess Granger says:

    Makes sense to me.

    What do you call the wolf at the bottom of the pack? The low dog on the totem pole? Isn’t that the Omega? I forget.


  10. Karin says:

    I’m with Brandy about where my attention is when I’m reading books. It’s not so much on what type of hero is there, but on the hero himself. But, the gamma does sound like the best of both worlds. I think Jachin Black, the vampire hero in Patrice Michelle’s Scions: Resurrection, could probably be classified as a gamma hero.

    Jess, I’m pretty sure you’re right that the Omega is the wolf at the bottom of the pack. If I remember what I read in Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series, the Omegas are the ones that have to deal with being beaten on by the others in the pack.

  11. Zoe Winters says:

    I think Spike was definitely a Gamma by this definition.

    Though I think really what’s described as a Gamma is a genuine alpha. And what’s often described as an alpha is more of an asshole. If a guy is too arrogant, he’s not an alpha to me. Now he might be misunderstood as being super arrogant, but an arrogant man isn’t anyone’s hero, IMO.

    I married an Alpha in real life. This guy is large and in charge, but he’s not an arrogant asshole.

  12. Zoe Winters says:

    And ack, the reason I think a lot of what is described as a Gamma is just a “good alpha” is because in wolf packs, which is where all this comes from, the Alpha is the one who is the strongest fighter and wins leadership of the pack.

    You find many different personality styles of good leaders, and arrogant assholes are usually the least effective.

  13. azteclady says:

    Zoe Winters said,

    You find many different personality styles of good leaders, and arrogant assholes are usually the least effective.

    Oh yes, yes and yes!