How to Plot Captivating Scenes in Romance Fiction
How to Plot Enthralling Scenes in Romance Fiction

How to Plot Captivating Scenes in Romance Fiction

In the realm of literature, romance fiction stands as a powerful genre that delves into the intricacies of falling in love. Crafting this kind of narrative requires a unique blend of authenticity, depth, and emotional resonance. This article offers a 4-step guide to outlining well-structured scenes that deeply connect with readers. Through practical insights and examples, we’ll explore the essential elements that contribute to creating an impactful scene.

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A scene, first of all, is a set of related actions that occur in a unified place and time. Rosenfeld (2007) agrees when she writes that scenes encapsulate fascinating characters’ actions and make events feel instantaneous. Basically, she emphasizes the importance of creating scenes with vivid actions and characters to make the story feel real. Action is key in a scene, but balance is important too.

So, I developed the mnemonic PICO to remember the four elements of a scene outline: Protagonist, Intention, Complications, and Outcome. We’ll examine each component, using a scene breakdown from Haunted Guardian. This is a plot outline that you could use as a basis for a Gothic romance. Nonetheless, the PICO method is useful for outlining any subgenre of romance fiction.


Amy and John’s encounter isn’t a charmingly fated meet-cute.

Protagonist: Amy Reed.

Intention: To find a bedroom where she can sleep.

Complications: Amy navigates an unfamiliar building without electricity. The darkness of night envelops her like a shroud. She gropes her way around the rooms, feeling uneasy and alone. Yet, unsettling noises alert her to the possibility of someone lurking in the shadows. Amy arms herself and embarks on a hunt to confront the trespasser.

Outcome: A desperate lunge leaves Amy disarmed, only to discover the hunky intruder is John. Amidst suspicion, an inexplicable attraction stirs within her heart. He offers a dubious explanation for his presence in the building, vanishes into the night, and leaves her bewildered.

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Let’s now break down the scene’s components.


The protagonist is the point-of-view character through whose eyes the readers experience the scene. They see, hear, think, and feel everything the protagonist does. This allows the readers to connect with the character on a deeper level and to better understand the story. Given that a single perspective is allowed per scene, there can be just one main character. That’s the full name you should write at the top of your scene online. Amy Reed, in this case.


An intention is a specific objective that the protagonist plans to achieve in the scene. You should declare this immediate goal using the to-infinitive, and it must support the achievement of the protagonist’s main objective. For instance, Amy intends to find a bedroom because she has come to uncover the building’s dark secrets. It’s a necessary step that will help her accomplish her story goal.


Complications are the challenges that the protagonist encounters while she follows through on her intention. They should be a mix of internal and external conflicts because that’s what makes a scene more enthralling. It’d be boring if the protagonist achieved her goal without hitting a few bumps in the road. A scene without complications is as bland as a muffin without mixins. So, you should add them as flavor-enhancing ingredients.

In this example, Amy faces outside forces such as an unknown setting, lack of electricity, and darkness. They obstruct her search for a bedroom. She also grapples internally with uneasiness and loneliness, which don’t let her focus on the task at hand. To top it off, unnerving noises prompt Amy to confront the intruder.


The outcome refers to the end result of how a scene unfolds. Did the protagonist get what she intended? What effect did her actions and choices have on the plot? The outcome must set the stage for the next scene and leave the reader wanting more. 

How does Amy’s scene turn out? Her encounter with John lacks the charm of a typical meet-cute. It’s what’s expected of a Gothic romance, but sparks of attraction ignite between them amid suspicion. John’s intentions remain in suspense until the next scene, and the reader would be eager to find out more. That’s how you strategically outline a page-turner.

In conclusion, mastering the art of scene construction is pivotal in romance fiction. You can use the mnemonic PICO to remember the ingredients for a scene outline: Protagonist, Intention, Complications, and Outcome. As you embark on your writing journey, remember that every scene is an opportunity to captivate your readers. And that requires careful planning.


Rosenfeld, J. (2007). Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time. F+W Media.

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