What are Beats in Romance Writing?

The construction of a romance novel can seem confusing to a new writer. But thankfully there is a solid framework that most authors use to ensure their writing is pleasing to the reader. This framework is usually known as the “Seven Beats” of romance writing. Just as a play uses the framework of two, or more often three, acts, the seven beats help the writer to create a flowing narrative and to keep the reader engaged. So, if you’re just starting out as a writer, writing for eBooks or more traditional publications, here is a description of what the beats are and how you can use them to improve your writing.

1. The Setup

In this beat, the author describes the nature of the protagonist’s (or the antagonist’s) missing piece. This usually takes the form of a dream they are yet to fulfil, or a thing they wish was in their life that isn’t currently.

2. The Inciting Incident

This beat is a crucial part of the narrative, as it sets the tone for the rest of the story. The inciting incident is the point at which the two romantic leads meet and begin their story as a pair rather than individuals. The manner in which this happens is often amusing or embarrassing to draw the reader in and help them relate to the characters.

3. The Turning Point

Just as everything seems to be unfolding smoothly, the turning point comes along to make the story more exciting for the reader (much to the characters’ disappointment!). The turning point sets the two leads on diverging, sometimes conflicting, paths. Consequently, the priorities of the characters are laid bare as they are forced to choose between each other and what the truly want.

4. The Midpoint

Here, the stakes are raised, and the leads are irreversibly linked through a series of events and is often accompanied by rising romantic tension between the leads.

5. The Swivel (second turning point)

Sometimes known as the second turning point, the swivel pits the couple’s future against the protagonist’s (or antagonist’s) biggest dream. The character has a big decision to make, and it is unclear which direction they will choose, elevating the suspense and drama.

6. The Crisis

The drama comes to a head in this beat, which is also sometimes referred to as the dark moment. Within this beat, any secrets that have been kept from the other lead come to the surface, threatening to jeopardise their whole relationship, and all hopes of personal accomplishment for the protagonist seem to have vanished.

7. Joyful Defeat/Resolution

In this final beat, the protagonist usually prioritises their relationship over any other desires, and the couple reaffirm their relationship, sometimes through a marriage or other bonding event.

As with any writing framework, these beats are offered as a guide, and by no means dictate exactly how you should formulate your writing. However, this structure has been used very successfully for many years, and is a structure that readers are used to and therefore often respond favourably to. Now that this secret has been revealed to you, I hope you will feel more confident about constructing you romantic writing!

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