Another kind of hero

This month we’ve talked about the alphabet soup of yummy heroes: alphas, betas, and gammas. But I wanted to add one more to spice things up: the theta hero.

In the hero club, the alpha is the confident (okay, sometimes arrogant) leader, and the beta is the nice guy (not to say boring!) who brings cookies and sandwiches to the club house, and the gamma is the capable one who actually knew how to build a tree house. Meanwhile, the theta hero is… playing pirate in some other yard by himself.

Thetas are often dark heroes — the lone wolves and wounded, wandering souls. They never want to be leaders but they’ll stand in second place to no man. They make their own rules and go their own way. They are too self-aware to be arrogant (after all, they got those scars by losing) but too damaged to be easily won over by friendship or love. Like an abused stray, they take many times the work to lure closer, but once convinced to come in from the rain, their loyalty and commitment never wavers. Where the alpha glowers and the beta grins and the gamma gets to work, the theta watches and thinks. He’s a complicated hero for difficult times.

Oh, and he’s sexy. But I didn’t need to say that, did I? 🙂

In case you hadn’t guessed, thetas are one of my favorite heroes to write. Much like a gamma, they combine the best features of an alpha and a beta, but with their own delicious twist.

And for your brainstorming convenience, here’s a handy triptych of theta heroes, all handily played by the same actor.*

Now aren’t you inspired to try on a theta hero?

Indy had all the fun of being a globe-trotting adventurer/professor without the dreary administrative issues of an alpha. Deckard was as sensitive as a beta even while looking bad-ass in a trench coat. And Han… Well, we all know Han shot first! No do-gooding gamma here.

If there is one downside to a theta hero, it’s that his lone-wolf wandering can seemingly make domestic bliss an unlikely scenario. But heck, we need more conflict in our stories anyway. He just needs the right mate to give him a reason to come home… or to go wandering with him!

Who are your favorite theta heroes? Share in comments.


* And yes, I am super psyched for the next batch of Star Wars movies. J.J., fail me you shall not!


About Jessa Slade

Jessa Slade is the author of the Marked Souls urban fantasy romance series (NAL Signet Eclipse), the Steel Born paranormal romance series (Harlequin Nocturne Cravings), and award-winning self-published science fiction romance with Hotter on the Edge. You can find her online at all the usual haunts.

Posted on June 26, 2014, in Auth: Jessa Slade and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I always knew that Jessa’s writing was unique…now she is making up her own hero type! LOL. I have never heard if this label but I see from your excellent examples that such a man exists.

    Would the latest version of the Hulk (played by Mark R), in the Avengers fit this mold? He goes to great physical distances to keep away from people and then he tries to stick to himself but he’s always working in the background and does his part to save the day?


  2. Continuing in the Harrison Ford vein, would John Book from Witness qualify as theta?


  3. So, I have to ask. Did you make up this “theta” designator or is it one of those things only English or Literature majors know. I’ve never heard of it. I would call Hans Solo or Indiana Jones Alpha/Beta heroes–a good combination of the two.

    I think of Beta heroes as definitely the make a sandwhich for you kind but who also step to the plate and take charge when needed–that’s the hero part. So, is your differentiation that the Theta is horribly wounded (dark) and a loner?


    • Would I make up something like this? 😉 Although I admit, when I went looking for more info on theta heroes, I couldn’t find much. But I swear I read about it somewhere once.

      I think all heroes can be wounded (cuz writers are mean!) but I think the difference is the theta has had to go outside the system in order to compensate for his pain. A theta hero hasn’t known the ordinary world for a long time, if ever. The special world is his area of expertise. Maybe the heroine brings him back to the village with the elixir… or maybe they just drink it all themselves!

      Okay, now I sound like I’m making this us 😉


      • “Would I make up something like this? ;)” Uh, yeah…I mean you are a FICTION writer.

        Okay, so there are Thetas. Hmmm. Like Omega man. I can see how we could have a hero or heroine for every Greek letter. Do they also have to be fraternity members?


  4. Reblogged this on Jessa Slade and commented:

    From my other online home at SEE JANE PUBLISH.


  5. Han Solo, definitely! And what about Mr. Darcy (played by Colin Firth, of course), would he be a theta? And maybe Wrath in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood novels?


    • I’m thinking Wrath is a true alpha, yeah? I mean, he had to grow into that role, but he was always a king inside.

      Will I get egged if I think Darcy is a beta? 🙂 A dark beta! Not a typical nice guy, but loooooning to be a nice guy.


  6. And that’s why we love your stories Jessa. Thetas abound in IRL, but not a woman I know has the time or energy to fall in love with a theta (a lot of work). But they make great fictional heroes 🙂


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