A to Z of Writing Romance – Beats
When I started writing romance, I was totally confused with how to plot one. Sure, I’ve read a few and I had a bit of an idea that girl meets boy, they like each other, there’s conflict, they get over it and happy ending. But, there are so many other elements, that I often get lost, throw my hands in the air and give up. Then I discovered the theory of story beats, and haven’t really looked back.
What is a beat?
A term coined by screenwriters, beats are what novel writers like to call … wait for it … wait for it … turning points! They’re usually one sentence in length and describe the next important thing that is happening in your story. Screenwriters are so good at simplifying things down, that I found it an easy way to understand the structure of a romance story.
Blake Snyder from the Save the Cat fame is probably the first person I ever read about who structures stories in this way (in fact, I believe he’s where it all originated). I highly recommend his books, but I warn you, you will never watch a movie the same way again.
I’ve put together some simple plot points for romance that I use when writing a story. They’re simple, yet effective. And because I’m a bit of a pantser, I like to refer back to it when I’m stuck.
- POV character starts off against love (has a fear) but secretly wants it.
- Meet Cute—They meet someone who will fulfil what they are lacking, but they’re not yet ready to accept it
- Forced to spend time together. Barriers break down but they have different goals.
- Give in to feelings—temporarily gets love.
- Forces try to keep them apart—something happens that makes them realise their original fear.
- Lose Love.
- Something’s gotta give … something happens that makes them realise they want the love, even if it means changing. Protagonist makes a personal sacrifice.
- Something happens to show that they are now actively fighting to win love back—something tries to keep them apart but this time they win.
- Love wins & happily ever after or happy for now.
Tips for building a romance thread into your story at all the right places
Sometimes, when you’re writing a story with romantic elements, it’s hard to tell which romantic bits fit in with which action bits. There’s rising action and falling action. There’s turning points, obstacles and climax’s. The same goes for the external arc, as for the internal. If you can match the integral plot points from both the major plot and the subplot, you’ll end up with an explosive storyline that will leave your readers wanting more. Imagine getting that final climax moment in the action sequence complimenting the state of the relationship.
I also discovered that if you put together two sides of the plotting arc, one for romance, one for action, it can be seen as a heart! How fitting for romance. The worksheet is perfect for writers of romantic suspense, or any other plot type with external events that effect the characters at the same time as a romantic subplot.
Check out the worksheet I’ve created, you can get this for free by signing up to my email list, or head over to etsy and purchase it for $1.99AUS.