There’s a new trend toward having beta males in the hero role of romance novels. If you’re unfamiliar with the term beta male, the Oxford Dictionary describes it as, “A subordinate male, or a man tending to assume a passive or subservient role in social or professional situations.” The opposite of the beta male is the alpha male, a man who assumes the dominant role in similar scenarios. The logic presumes that readers are looking for a sensitive and understanding hero who values the heroine’s views and that alpha males are overbearing, insensitive, and treat the heroine as a trophy.
Personally, I don’t want to write about either a beta or an alpha male. The heroes I want to convey in my books are what I call honor males. This may be a made-up term (I tried a Google search but came up null), but let me explain my honor male by first defining honor. Dictionary.com states honor as a noun is “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions,” and as a verb “to hold in honor or high respect; revere.” There is nothing in this definition about dominance or submission. It’s the focus on doing the right thing.
What’s great about novels is that no hero (or heroine) is perfect. The story evolves as the hero overcomes his false perception(s) and learns to do the right thing. In essence, the story is about his journey to becoming an honor male. From the definition of honor, we see two types, what Brett McKay from The Art of Manliness calls horizontal and vertical honor. Horizontal honor is a mutual respect among individuals that is earned and maintained. These are the men who’ve developed trust among their peers by showing strength, courage, and mastery. They know, when trouble arises, they can count on each other. The hero must demonstrate the bravery and tenacity to defend their virtue of honor when needed. Whether that consists of raising a sword and standing back-to-back or hopping on a keyboard and hacking into an evil fascist’s cyber system, depends on your genre of preference.
On the other hand, vertical honor is derived from the verb form: to revere or hold in high respect. It’s not about mutual respect but about showing praise, esteem, and adoration to a position of power because they’ve distinguished themselves usually from the horizontal honor group. These heroes are the captains, bosses, officers, and political leaders.
My all-time favorite honor hero is Jesus. Even though He already held the vertical honor of being the Son of God, He came into the world to rub shoulders with us in the trenches. Because He loves us, He not only took on our limited human form with its vulnerability to illness, pain, and weakness, but he placed all of our sins upon himself. He suffered and died so that our wrongdoings would be washed away by His blood, so death no longer would hold its sting, and we won’t ever have to be separated from our awesome God. Jesus, who holds the honor of sitting at God’s right hand, in essence, transferred value to us, not because of what we’ve done, but because of what He gave (His life) for us.
Now that’s a hero worth writing about.
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