What makes a man romantic in romance writing? His looks? His qualities? How he engages the world? In a nutshell, all of the above.
Traditionally, there are two types of romantic men - the "alpha" and "beta." The alpha has always been thought of the traditional romantic hero, but more recently, the beta is gaining in ground. Also, gaining in popularity is a merge of alpha and beta characteristics in the hero. So what is an alpha guy? A beta male? Let's take a look.
The Picture of a Romantic Man
When we think of what a romantic man looks like, both alpha and beta heroes share traits. They're strong, broad shouldered, well toned, with long legs and thin hips. The alpha usually takes on a few more "darker" characteristics, such as a feral gleam or a mercurial stare, as they tend to be more dominant. Imagery can include that of a majestic lion, or the king of his pride. Alpha heroes may tend to take on a more saturnine appearance as well. For alphas, mercurial eyes, feral smiles and saturnine cheeks all tend to show dominance.
The Qualities a Romantic Hero Embodies
There are core qualities our alpha and beta heroes share. They possess physical strength, beauty, have a keen mind, and are capable of emotional depth. The difference lies in their approach.
Beta heroes are usually found in more contemporary stories. They are nurturers and protectors. They don't' have to be rich, but hard workers. They're problem solvers, but they tackle different, more every day problems than alpha heroes. They tend to be the every day guy - a firefighter or in law enforcement, for example. They go to work and go home to tuck their children into bed. Betas are verbal, tender, and vulnerable, but not to the point they look like a wimp. A classic beta male is "Ashley Wilkes" from "Gone With the Wind." A more modern beta hero is Robert Langdon from "The DaVinci Code." He's a problem solver, has a keen intellect, isn't rich, but works hard. He's every bit as handsome as the alpha hero, but not as intense. In the movies, Tom Hanks does a great job showing Langdon's verbal and vulnerable sides.
Alpha heroes have come down through the ages. They exhibit a deep range of emotion, but aren't likely to tuck their child into bed. An alpha man is more likely to be rich - he dominates through acquisition. He usually has a more prominent social position than the beta. Our alpha hero also finds that he has to temper his capacity for destruction with a strong force for construction.
What sets both our alpha and beta man apart from others in the romantic department is how they treat others around them - with dignity, respect, and honor. Let's face it, if our "romantic" man is good looking, but shallow, if he yells and throws things, what woman would be attracted to those traits? Our romantic man doesn't yell, not does he throw objects. That's not charming. He's more tempered in anger, making his point in other, more subtle, yet effective ways.
The Rules For Our Men
Our romantic men have dignity. They're honest, and respectful. They're gentle with their women. They don't gossip. They don't lie, but they can be deliberately misleading if they're trying to protect the heroine.
In more modern, contemporary romances, you'll see more alpha and beta traits blended to make our romantic man. He dominates at work, but doesn't hesitate to tuck his child into bed. He's got a wicked sense of humor, but he's also self-assured in what he does all the way down to his bones.
When constructing a romantic hero, paint him with a brushstroke of Adonis, a touch of nobility (even if he's not noble born), a splash of integrity and let his romantic heart shine through in his actions.