The Novel Writer's Blog

How to Write a Romance Novel Outline: A Proven Structure

26 May 2016

In the Novel Factory, we included a 'Universal Storyline' based on the Hero's Journey to help people develop story ideas into fully formed plots.

Once you know the elements that are common to stories since the first tribal people sat down around a fire to tell each other tales, you see them in everything you watch and read.

Naturally, the genres also have slightly more specific stages and common features, and I've been trying to put together templates for some of the most common genres.

All the story 'skeletons' as I'm fond of calling them, can be found in the Novel Factory software itself, but I'm also going to post them here, starting with the Romance Novel Template / cheatsheet / outline / whatever you want to call it.

This is based on research around the web and my own experience of romance stories. It still feels quite skeletal for me, even for a skeleton, so if you have any suggestions for any story beats I've missed, please let me know!

Romance Novel Structure: The 3 Acts

Act One

1. Introduce the protagonist (who feels incomplete)

2. Protagonist meets love interest but there is conflict

3. Characters are forced to spend time together

4. Characters’ goals are at cross purposes

Act Two

5. Characters are bound together in a situation (sexual tension occurs)

6. Protagonist’s individual desire conflicts with the growing relationship

7. Crisis – shift to prioritize relationship ends in disaster

Act Three

8. Climax – protagonist must make personal sacrifice for ultimately fulfilling relationship

Romance Novel Template Structure Cheatsheet

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