Three Acts and Twelve Beats
When writing romance, utilize the classic three act structure, broken into twelve beats to drive your story forward. Here’s how to do it with ease.
I would like to welcome Brooke E. Wayne to my blog. Brooke is a close friend, writing partner, travel buddy, and confidant of mine. We regularly bounce ideas off one another to keep each other inspired. She has a fabulous take on how to write romance in three acts and twelve beats.
In fact, she even allowed me to use some of her poetry in my creative writing workbook, Prompt Me Romance. Brooke’s specialty is romance, so I asked her over her to share some of her expertise. Here’s how to write romance, utilizing the classic three act structure, broken into twelve beats to drive your story forward.
WRITING ROMANCE: THREE ACTS, TWELVE BEATS
“The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov
Most everyone is familiar with the classic Aristotelian Story Arc of THREE ACTS. It is a rudimentary formula for building a PLOT. It can be applied to any genre and flourishes when tweaked to meet the needs of a particular subgenre.
In writing ROMANCE, the following TWELVE BEATS will drive the storyline towards its happily-ever-after (HEA) or happy-for-now (HFN). And remember, If it doesn’t have a HEA or HFN for the main character and love interest, it is not a romance. True love always wins!
Aristotle’s Three Act Structure
Act I: Introduction, Inciting Moment
Act II: Rising Action, Climax
Act III: Falling Action, Denouement
Plot Map Your Romance
Use a plot map like the one below to help organize the structure of your romance novel.
How to Utilize the Three Acts Today
Romance novelists often utilize tropes to formulate their plot bunnies, whether it’s all about best-friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, or mistaken identity–the tropes list is endless.
It’s a common practice for authors, and readers not only come to expect a particular blueprint, they also anticipate how the literary journey is going to feel along the way. They do, after all, know how the story is going to end. So, without further ado: Write Romance in Three Acts and Twelve Beats.
ACT I: Introduction (Trope + Characters + Setting)
- SET THE STAGE
- The first 250 words are critical in creating a compelling HOOK for the reader to want to keep flipping pages. If you’re writing a RomCom, go for a laugh.
- Answer the who, what, when, and where while throwing in some clever ACTION to bait your reader into wanting more.
- Every romance begins with a MEET CUTE–that moment the main character and the love interest collide with one another and sparks fly.
- The meet cute must go down by the 25% mark in your novel–the sooner the better, though.
- The main characters have to want something. There has to be stakes at play that they will spend the next 300 pages clamoring towards at any cost. The stakes need to be attainable and focused on self-growth, but risk is paramount in driving the character towards that goal.
- The split, or moment the main character and love interest cannot be together (even if they want to be) needs to occur within the first 25% of the novel–the sooner the better.
- This inciting moment will destroy their chances of pursuing anything other than their individual stakes.
ACT II: Rising Action
- The main character and love interest must be put in close proximity to one another in order to accomplish one’s personal goal. They can be pitted against each other or even seamlessly work as a team, but they must be near one another no matter what. Your setting needs to be dynamic enough to handle them constantly getting in each other’s way.
- Let the rat race begin! Stuck in the same maze, they must out-do each other in all aspects of their dynamic relationship to get what they want–whatever their ‘cheese’ stake may be. Their goals seem more and more attainable the closer they draw on strength from one another.
- It’s time to get cozy. No matter how hard they try, they just can’t seem to get away from each other, and maybe they don’t even want to. Moment by moment, they draw closer and closer to one another physically and emotionally, and somewhere around the 65% mark, someone or both of them let their romantic intentions be known.
- Just when you think true love is on the horizon–maybe they’ve shared a kiss or bore their souls while bonding–they suddenly break up. Poof! It could be an external force driving them apart or an internal one like the classic ‘I’m just not ready, yet’, reason, but somewhere around the 75% mark they scramble away from each other and refocus. Our main character and love interest still have incomplete stakes that need to be reckoned with before they have any extra room in their lives for true love.
- This one is pretty self-explanatory. They have to reach their goals and in order to have what they want they have to personally grow enough to get it. So they do. And an amazing thing happens–now they have created enough space in their lives with their newly found selves that they are ready to welcome the other person in.
- GRAND GESTURE
- It’s time to declare the inevitable; true love has been brewing and the cup is now overflowing. Someone has to make a move–not just any move either–this gesture has to be so grand it evokes all the heartstrings. Location is everything for some writers during this climactic moment around the 85% mark.
ACT III: Falling Action with Denouement (Resolution)
- 11. TRIUMPH
- True love wins! The reader finally receives the HEA or HFN these characters deserve as their mutual love is established.
- 12. TOGETHER
- Now that our main character and love interest are official, and their stakes have been met, accomplishing their goals like champs, they are now ready to live a little as one with at least a scene or two to show they now work together effortlessly.
Check out Brooke’s guest post: BUSTING WRITER’S BLOCK.
Get Inspiration for Your Romance Novel
The best-selling Prompt Me Series is here to help with photo prompts, story starters, fill-in-the-blanks, reference, and so much more. There’s even room to write in the book. Ban writer’s block and get writing.
Contains Poetry by Brooke E. Wayne
About Brooke E. Wayne
BROOKE E. WAYNE writes novels for lovers of laughter and romance, giving them an escape from life’s hullabaloo. She also produces poetry workbooks to help creative writers sharpen their craft.
Brooke is married to South Philly-born, Eagles-obsessed YouTuber Philly.500, who she met online and fell in love with long before that kind of meet cute was cool. They have two young daughters who flood their happily-ever-after lives with girly giggles and immeasurable love.
Brooke holds a BA in English with a minor in Theology, a MA in Humanities with an emphasis in Literature, two Clear CLAD credentials, and an unofficial PhD in the Art of Snark.
Never without a journal on hand, Brooke has been writing stories and poetry since she was eleven years old. She’s had everything from poetry to articles for an encyclopedia set published over the last thirty years. Her romance novels and workbooks are available on Amazon.
When Brooke is not crafting sensual, contemporary romances with lighthearted, witty twists, she teaches English Language Arts, inspiring others to read classic literature and write from the heart.
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