I have never agreed with the old saw that all romances are alike.
I do agree there are certain similarities. Besides the happy ending,
can count on a romance having a terrific hero – the kind of guy
loves to love.
Or can you? The truth is, just as in real life every woman has her own
taste in men, every romance reader has her own taste in heroes. One
dream date is another’s nightmarish evening. The hero I sigh for may
your eyes roll.
There was a time when the so-called “Alpha” hero reigned supreme among
romances, but even if we could all agrees on what an “alpha” male is,
wouldn’t all like the fellow. Adding beta, gamma and delta to the list
us a little more insight, but it still seemed a bit limited to my
group, composed of Caro LaFever, Sue Viders, and little ole me.
It was, in fact, in an attempt to determine just which heroes of
were the fabled “alpha” males that my two partners and I came across an
interesting discovery. There are eight heroic archetypes.
Yep. That’s right, count ‘em. Eight And, somewhat to our surprise,
archetypes are not reserved for romance, but found in all genres, and
media – stage, film, and literature. And, we also discovered there are
eight heroine archetypes – something you don’t hear about too
We came to this conclusion after a great deal of research, during
addition to our usual fiction reading, we reviewed the characters found
movies and plays. In all, we considered about 500 productions, and in
process, wrote a book: Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes.
Sue, Caro and I presented two two programs at the RWA Conference
Chicago on Friday evening – Beyond Alpha and Beyond Cinderella, in
presented the archetypes we have discovered.
Meanwhile, here is a peek at the heroes and how each reacts in a
The Eight Male Archetypes
This hero is the quintessential alpha hero. He might have been born to
lead, or perhaps he conquered his way to the top, but either way, he’s
tough, decisive, goal-oriented. That means he is also a bit
This man tends to be at the top of his career field – maybe the CEO of
major corporation, or a prince. If he’s not already number one, it’s
matter of time
Some examples of Chiefs:
John Wayne in most of his movies
Captain Kirk of Star Trek
Marlon Brando in The Godfather
In romance novels, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss' hero in The Flame & the Flower was a Chief, and many of the Harlequin Presents books have Chief heroes.
If this man were trapped in a basement with an unconscious heroine and
ticking, his first reaction would be anger, which he would, of course
to take out on
someone else. He can never admit he's made a mistake, and since he's
trapped, well...he knows he's made a mistake. So he’s pretty darned
He's used to being in charge, so he's going to make a command decision
what to do. He’ll make it quickly and the act. Not long planning time
him. He might find a way out by just charging through the locked door
windows. Or maybe he’ll get on his cell phone - trust me, he has one
demand that someone come get him out.
The Bad Boy
This is the rebel, or the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s
and volatile, a crushed idealist, but he's also charismatic and street
smart. He hates authority and doesn't buckle under to anyone, which is
he often chooses jobs where he's his own boss. In western historicals,
the perfect outlaw.
Some examples of Bad Boys:
James Dean in just about every movie he
Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing
Jack Nicholson often plays Bad Boys
Fonzie from Happy Days was a great example of the lighter side of the Bad Boy
In romance, he's the hero in Teresa Medeiros' Nobody's Darling, C.L.
Jennifer Crusie’s Tell Me Lies, the regency hero of plenty of Joan
Smith’s romps, and you can often find him in Silhouette Intimate Moments books,
or in Harlequin Temptations.
If this man were trapped in the basement with an unconscious heroine
bomb ticking, he'd be very physical. He's going to be resentful and
bad attitude, but he's used to being in tight spots. He's a Bad Boy,
all. He’ll enjoy beating the stuffing out of those walls. Maybe he’ll
pick the lock, he’s done that sort of thing before! Or does he go way
with one of the villain’s henchmen, who’ll look the other way while he
The Best Friend
This is the beta hero. He's kind, responsible, decent, a regular Mr.
This man doesn't enjoy confrontation and can sometimes be unassertive
doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But he'll always be there.
We all knew this guy in high school and didn’t appreciate him. If we
smart, though, he’s the guy we married. He's a people person and he'll
always put the needs of others first.
Who are Best Friends? Well, Tom Hanks almost always plays a Best Friend
his movies. Bill Pullman in While You Were Sleeping is a fine example,
Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life pretty much defines the type.
In romance, you can often find Best Friends in some of the light comedy
lines like Harlequin Duets. Many of LaVyrle Spencer's heroes are Best
Trapped in the basement, this man would be incredulous. Things like
just don’t happen to him! But his first act would be to care for the
heroine. He, alone of all the archetypes, would actually seek her help,
because he knows the value of teamwork.
He's practical, down to earth, so he'd assess what could be done and
work. He'll be very determined because he's responsible for the
Getting his lady and himself out of this situation will be a real
booster for him, too.
Rescue is a real possibility, because he’s made friends and done favors
everyone. Everyone likes him. Even the villain thinks it’s a shame to
to get rid of such a nice guy.
We’ve all known these types. Fun, irresistible, a smooth operator, yet
responsible or dependable. He might be a playboy or a rogue, but he's
’t commit to a woman easily He's not crazy about hard work, and he
in sales, or a gambler
in the wild west.
Examples of Charmers:
Ferris Bueller shows what this guy was like in
If this guy's trapped in the basement, he'll be smooth. In fact, this
might try to talk his way out with the bad guys. Only as a last resort
he do something physical, like break out.
Of course, he just might be rescued by an old girlfriend who happens
After all, he's a playboy and knows everyone!
The Lost Soul
Tortured, secretive, brooding, and unforgiving. That’s this man. But
vulnerable. He might be a wanderer or an outcast. In work he's
probably also a
loner, so he might be an undercover cop, or do something artistic.
Examples of Lost Souls:
Heathcliffe, of course, defines the type
Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck
Angel from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer
romance, Laura Kinsale and Mary Jo Putney tend to write Lost Souls, and
can probably find him in some of the Silhouette Intimate Moments books.
vampire or Beauty and the Beast type book probably has a Lost Soul as
If a Lost Soul is trapped in the basement, he'll be fatalistic. This is
another example of the series of despairing events that have punctuated
life. It’s a good thing the heroine is there, because otherwise, he
just throw in the towel. But he won’t let the villains kill her, so he
save them both.
He’ll have a surge of adrenaline, bashing against doors and windows.
able to call up enormous physical strength in a situation like this.
of Quasimodo, when he saves Esmerelda.
He's the most likely to know of a hidden tunnel through which they can
escape, since he's lived most of his life in the shadows.
Rescue? Well, no old friend will show up, that’s for sure, unless it is
old friend of the heroine’s. The Lost Soul has no friends.
The first time you meet him, this logical, introverted, and inflexible
might not be your idea of a hero, but take another look. He is genuine
about his feelings. At work, he likes cold, hard facts, thank you very
much, but he's also honest and faithful, and won’t let you down.
Best examples of Professors?
Spock or Data from Star Trek
Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day
Kelsey Grammer on Frasier - in fact, Nils Crane
also a professor, it’s fun to see two version of the same type
In romance, Jayne Ann Krentz writes Professors, which she also does under her Amanda Quick pseudonym. Pair
him with a ditzy heroine, and you have a great hero for light comedy.
Remember Jennifer Crusie’s The Cinderella Deal?
Put a Professor in a basement with an unconscious heroine and a ticking
and he'll stay calm, cool, and collected. He’ll push his glasses back
his nose and get to work on defusing the bomb. This man will analyze
facts of the situation, make calculations, and see all the small
around him. He'll think his way out. And oh yes, he’ll remember the
This guy is action, action, and more action. He's physical and daring.
Fearless, he’s a daredevil, or an explorer. He needs thrills and chills
keep him happy.
Examples: Indiana Jones, of course. Also, Jackie Chan in all of his
and Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone.
In romance, he's the perfect pirate. Read Karen Robards and Fern
Michaels - they like Swashbucklers.
A bomb in the basement? Hoo boy, he’s happy now. What an adventure!
Swashbuckler might use the explosion of the bomb itself to blast a way
That way, he’ll get to hear the bomb go off! However he gets out,
Rescue? Bite your tongue. He doesn’t need any help!
This man is the reluctant rescuer or the knight in shining armor. He's
noble, tenacious, relentless, and he always sticks up for the underdog.
you need a protector,
he’s your guy. He doesn’t buckle under to rules, or and he doesn’t go
to get along.
Examples of Warriors? Dirty Harry, and most any Steven Seagal
character. Check the Die Hard movies too. For a lighter version, try TV’s
Hercules. Most superheroes are Warriors .
In romance, Suzanne Brockmann and Linda Howard write Warriors.
Rogers favors this type, too.
Trap this man in a basement and his reaction is going to be pure
He's a protector, so his focus will be getting her out. But once
out, the villain better start running. The Warrior will hunt him to
ends of the earth.
Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders will be speaking about these
heroes at the RWA National conference in Chicago on
July 30, where they'll do workshops on both the eight heroes, and the eight
Tami Cowden was awarded the Golden Heart at the 2000 RWA Conference for unpublished authors
Read Tami's article on heroine archetypes
Read about heroes in this issue of Laurie's News & Views
Read author Eileen Charbonneau's article on heroes
Read Tami's article on the 1999 RWA National Conference
Read Tami's article on the 1998 RWA National Conference
Read an AAR Review of Love Triumphs, an anthology to which Tami contributed