Marina Oliver – Romantic Fiction – The Genre

Plotting Romantic Fiction

All fiction needs careful plotting.

Give it a shape

A story (Jane met John, they fell in love, married and lived happily ever after) is not a plot, it's like a journal, or a diary on a continuous straight line with no high or low points. A plot must have a definite shape, a starting point and a conclusion. It also needs a middle with plenty of variation, twists and surprises, and it's this which makes for a great book. Anyone can write good beginnings and endings.


Assuming you have created a wonderful, attractive heroine your readers will identify with and an irresistible hero they'll fall in love with, you need a convincing situation which is real, not contrived, and which brings them together, believable conflicts and obstacles, and a satisfactory conclusion.

The plot development must always move on, every scene, conversation, action, character, word and sentence advancing the action. Sometimes the pace will be fast, unbearably exciting, other times lingering and sensuous.

The conflicts

These, and you can have more than one, come from the situation of the main characters, and their personalities. It may be different social or cultural backgrounds, aspirations and objectives which are opposed or incompatible, loyalties which divide them, or past experiences which scare them from trust or commitment. They may be rivals, or have secrets, or a previous failed love affair. The conflicts must be important, not mere verbal spats.

The progress

Readers must be kept guessing, always asking, 'What happens next?' Intrigue them by enticing them to turn the pages. There must be a series of obstacles, crises and moments of decision which build up gradually, are resolved in some way, until the final, biggest one of all.

Sub-plots, common in longer novels, can be used to enhance, mirror or contrast with the main one, or show the main characters in more varied aspects. These must be woven in with their own development. Don't let the crises of each sub-plot all come at the same time – space them out, resolve the sub-plots before the final main crisis.

Maintain the tension

Tantalise. Always pose further questions but delay the answers. Use hooks such as questions, surprises, new facts, disasters, conversations interrupted, an ultimatum, decisions made but not immediately announced, and all kinds of anticipation.

For information on how to write romantic fiction join a group, go on a course, read the books, or get an informed critique of your work.

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