50 Romance Plot Ideas!

This post was originally titled, “Master List of Romantic Conflicts,” but it really contains big ideas for entire plots. Of course, to write an engrossing love story–whether it’s a straight-up romance, or a subplot in a different kind of book or movie–it has to have strong conflict. Like Shakespeare said, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

Obstacles give your characters the chance to change and grow as people, and to prove how much they really do love each other. It also gives them interesting things to do. Depending on your story, it may cause sadness, terror, or hilarity before they reach their Happy Ever After. Or in the case of Romeo and Juliet, their bloody, pointless demise. Unless you’re writing a tragedy like that, your story may give your readers inspiration for overcoming difficulties in their own lives, even if their struggles are completely different.

Obviously the possibilities here are endless. I’ve used pronouns randomly, and any of these plot starters can work for any pairing.

Even if you don’t use something from here, it may make you think of something else. That’s how lists work, which is why I like to do them! In future posts, I might dig into some of these classic conflicts a little more and give you some examples in books, TV, and movies.

50 Ideas for Romance Plots for Writers #NaNoWriMo #writing

THEY HAVE CHARACTER FLAWS… Honestly, every real-life romance deals with this, and it should probably come up in any story about a relationship. Maybe he’s too selfish or lazy. Maybe she’s too rash, or too fearful. Maybe one of them is too negative, and needs to stop being so cynical. This could lead to one of them making a big, stupid mistake, and needing to make amends and get the other person’s forgiveness.

She’s already ruled him out… she made up her mind a long time ago that she would only marry a man with a title, or she would never date a biker again.

They are competitors… for the same job, the same championship, etc.

They are straight-up enemies… He wants to buy the land to build a resort, and she wants it to get turned into a nature sanctuary. He’s the defense attorney, and she’s the prosecutor. They’re soldiers on opposing sides of the war… the possibilities are endless here!

He already won… he inherited an estate that should have been hers, or he got the job that she was hoping to be promoted into, and she’s seething.

He broke her heart in the past. Maybe there was a good reason behind it, or maybe he was an idiot then and realizes it now. It’s possible he just ignored her.

She did her wrong in the past… or maybe she wronged her family member or friend. (Or did she? That family member or friend might have lied.)

He did something wrong in the past, period. Although she wasn’t the victim, it was pretty bad. How can she be sure he’s changed?

She has trust issues… her last relationship ended in a terrible betrayal.

He has intimacy issues… maybe because of a traumatic past, he feels too vulnerable if anyone knows about his real emotions or weaknesses. Maybe she’s a psychic, a behavioral expert, or just the one person who can see right through him… and it makes him uncomfortable as hell.

She doesn’t trust her dating choices… she’s gotten involved with several losers in a row, and she’s taking a break–maybe a permanent one.

She believes no one can truly love her… because she made a terrible mistake in the past, or she’s not attractive in the conventional manner, or she’s a “fallen woman” in a repressive era, or whatever.

They are good friends… and they don’t want to risk ruining their friendship by taking it to the next level.

They are co-workers… and they don’t want to make things weird at the office, bar, or wherever they both work.

She’s freaked out by who he really is… a werewolf, ex-con, or whatever.

He has a secret… he’s in a witness protection program, he’s a hacktivist, his father is literally the Devil, or something of that sort. (When she finds out, the conflict may turn into the one above. Or maybe she’ll surprise him and be like, “You’re a hacker? Dude, that is so hot.”)

It was supposed to be sex only… they were going to be friends with benefits, or maybe he’s a male escort. Falling in love goes against the original arrangement.

Their love was supposed to be fake… they were pretending to be in love or married, or they entered a marriage of convenience. It can’t be real, can it? On a related note…

He was faking it at first… he made a bet that he could bed her, or pretended to like her so he could learn her secrets and be the journalist who broke the story.

She was stuck with him… he’s a partner on a job when she wanted to do it by herself, or he rescued her when she was actually pretty happy where she was. She doesn’t want to admit she’s actually falling for him.

He has moral qualms… he’s her boss, her teacher, her captor, or something like that. Or maybe she’s the sister or ex-girlfriend or his best friend, and that gives him pause.

She’s a mess... She’s grieving the death of her husband, partner, or child, or she had PTSD from battle or some other terrible experience.

Their love is forbidden by others… it’s against the rules, spoken or unspoken, of their family, organization, community, or religion.

He’s into something she doesn’t like… it could be an addiction, like alcohol, laudanum, or gambling, or a profession, like boxing or defending corrupt clients in court. Whatever it is, she wants no part of it.

Their cultures clash… because he’s a modern man and she’s from ancient Greece, she’s a big-city girl and he’s a small-town boy, or whatever you like. This can overlap with the next one.

They are from different classes… he’s a duke and his boyfriend’s a commoner, for instance.

One of them is promised to someone else… maybe the wedding’s already planned and everything. S/he might have reasons for going through with a loveless marriage.

One of them is married to someone else… but it was some weird legal, not-consummated arrangement, or she ran away long ago because he was an abusive asshole…anyway, there’s a damn good reason why these marriage vows don’t hold much water.

She is infatuated with someone else instead of him… she doesn’t realize yet that this other person is awful.

She is interested in someone else in addition to him… and she’s having trouble making a decision. Maybe she refuses to choose.

Their time is together is limited… she’s going abroad to study in the fall, his work visa is almost up, or she’s about to go on a space mission to another planet, never to return… what’s the point of getting serious? The next one may be related to this.

Being together would require a big sacrifice… she has to say no to her dream job, he has to move away from his family, etc.

He’s a danger to her safety… because he’s a spy, a vampire, or something like that.

She’ll only make him unhappy… because she’s dying of a disease, suffering under a curse, can’t have children, or whatever. (Note that in many cases, this conflict may be exaggerated in the character’s mind.)

He’s ugly, freaky, or scary-looking... but once she gets to know him, she sees him differently (basically, Beauty and the Beast.)

She’s disguised as someone he would never fall for… a man when he’s only into women, a Republican when he’s a die-hard liberal, etc.

She may or may not be real at all… is it really possible he’s meeting a fairy or an alien in his visions or dreams?

They can’t get together in real life… there is an ocean or a few centuries between them.

He’s a suspect… in a murder or robbery case.

Her family is the worst… can he really get involved with that? Alternately, maybe she has a couple of kids, and while they are cute, this is not what he imagined for himself.

Her town is the worst… and she really can’t leave. Can he really resign himself to living in New York City, when his cowboy heart longs for Montana skies?

He’s got a reputation… as materialistic douche, a heartless womanizer, a stone cold killer, or some other despicable thing.

They have terrible first impressions of one another… and it’s a little hard to admit they were wrong. They might have gotten off to an awful start by arguing over something.

She loves her freedom… and always saw herself as the carefree type who would never settle down.

He doesn’t want distractions… he has one very important job to do, and he can’t afford to get sidetracked.

He loves her, but she doesn’t know him… maybe he knows her from an alternate universe, or maybe she has amnesia.

She’s not supposed to ever fall in love and/or have sex… maybe she’s a nun or vestal virgin, or a cyborg for whom sex is illegal, or a unicorn herder, or something.

He’s trying to control her… because he doesn’t want her to be ostracized by Victorian society, or to be in danger by becoming a firefighter. But nobody bosses her around, so that’s not going to fly.

He doesn’t see her in a romantic way… for instance, she’s the kid sister of his best friend, and he still thinks of her as a kid.

The job is getting in the way… Look, it’s hard to be romantic when you’re working 24/7 on a political campaign, or helping fellow victims of the airplane crash survive in the mountains.

~

What’s that? You want even more plot ideas? There are more in my reference book Master Lists for Writers. Click on the cover to take a look if you’re interested!

Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan

Happy writing!

 

120 Replies to “50 Romance Plot Ideas!”

  1. I adore this! You’ve covered a lot of ground here. Trying to think of any you’ve missed, but nothing’s coming to mind yet. I could fit all of the stories I’ve written into one or more of these, sometimes with slight pronoun tweaks. Oh, did you have something related to the whole brother’s best friend trope? “He still sees her as a kid, not as a woman he could partner with” or something? Maybe this could fit in one of the above…

  2. What a wonderful ‘really big list you worked hard on’! Lots of great ideas and endless combinations. Thank you! 🙂

    1. I did think about that! I believe “sexy stepbrother” goes under the category of “Their love is forbidden by others… it’s against the rules, spoken or unspoken, of their family…” etc. Does that sound right?

  3. Hi Emma and Bryn. I’ve been thinking about your idea, Emma and I’m wondering if this is getting into tricky waters, or would it be totally acceptable today? I would be wary of it, but maybe I’m just being way too safe??! Would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

    1. There have actually been a lot of stepbrother romances lately! I don’t see it as so controversial, really, since they are not related…but parents with kids and stepkids might feel quite differently, I imagine. It seems like some people love the idea and some people are squicked out by it. But that’s true of a lot of things in romance!

      1. Yes, I guess it depends on certain things. If you had grown up with a stepbrother from a very young age, I guess he would just be like your brother and perhaps those feelings wouldn’t develop in the first place. Interesting though. Thanks.

      2. I stayed at a hotel last month and talked to the night clerk for several hours one night. She told me her cousin had just started dating his daughter’s grandmother…

  4. I’ve already written a romance novel with more than one of these ideas in the entire story. My novel has a lot of interesting details mentioned like a lot of what you talk about. It’s called “All signs point to you.” It’s a teen novel, but it’s really good.

  5. Beautiful list. Literally ten of these describe my boyfriend and my relationship at one point or another. Love conquers all, I suppose.

  6. Wow, this was a great thing to read today! I’ve been thinking of how to plan the start of one of my novels and I sure am thankful that you’ve posted this. Thank you. ☺ I can’t wait to test these out!

  7. Reblogged this on Little Calico's Journal and commented:
    If you’re into NaNoWriMo this year, here’s a post of 50 great ideas to create the conflict you need in a romance novel, written by Bryn. I’ve discovered her website yesterday and am loving it, she has written wonderful resource and ideas for writers, be sure to check her out!

  8. Thank You, Bryn!! I’m a ghostwriter of Christian Romances (I’ve done Contemporary, Amish, and Mail Order Bride stories), and I often have trouble coming up with conflicts. I came upon this post from a Google search and L-O-V-E all these ideas. In fact, I was having a rough time working on a Contemporary plot for a client, and found 3 from this list that I used: “He feels too vulnerable if people know his feelings … she’s the one who can see right through him,” and a mashup of “She’s interested in someone else in addition to him” and “He’s into something she doesn’t like.” I had to tweak them just a little, but they worked beautifully and made the plot seem much more real. Needless to say, I finished the plot in near record time (for me, anyway), and I’m very pleased with it. I just hope the client likes it as much as I do, but I’m sure he will. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll be back for more inspiration – and may even purchase my own copy of your Master Lists for Writers book! 🙂
    Thanks Again!!

  9. Ohhh, these are fun. I believe in romance and love and lots of twists and turns to get there. I believe that just about everyone in the world wants/gets romance in their life. But it has to be worth the struggle. These are great struggles – good job! Both of my books are called romantic suspense, because really, no matter the suspense and the adventure, it ultimately is about – ‘do boy and girl get each other’???

  10. I’m not a romance junkie, but this was a feast for the eyes. There are a lot of places one could go with this. I have the unfortunate stereotype, further reinforced by “Twilight”, that romance is all gooey, but these plot lines show that doesn’t need to be the case. Thanks for sharing.

  11. How about the boy likes the girl but the girl is just insensitive about his feelings, but afterwards the girl falls for the boy and then the boy immediately has to leave(like for college and stuff like that) ?

    1. Hi Anne! I’m not sure that this is covered in my list 🙂 I think the interesting thing here is understanding why she was insensitive at first… and what motivated her to fall for him, after all? But having circumstances break them apart just as they are coming together is good conflict!

  12. How about he leaves her and her child and stays missing for three years? Then plz suggest me what should I write next. Like, she thought he’s left her forever etc but the actual reason was reasonable. Suggest plz.

  13. What about a woman with a reputation of being a heartless maneater, or whore, something a man does not tolerate? Doesn’t see him in a romantic way, has intimacy issues, she gets pregnant and leaves him, he has trust issues, she’s into something he can’t stand like alcohol which would cause him to abuse her, etc.

  14. Hey Bryn. I am writing a book and it will include a love triangle. The boy the girl loves more like a brother but the other one she will like even more but I’m not sure how she will form a crush. do you have an idea?

    1. Hi Meika! So she loves the first guy as a brother, but later develops more romantic feelings for him? ~ Because if she doesn’t have romantic feelings for them both, it’s not much of a love triangle. 🙂

      I have a list in my Master Lists for Writers book about 50 reasons why someone might develop an attraction… and I bet you can also think of some by asking people what first attracted them to their partner, and/or by thinking about how your favorite fictional characters got together. Good luck!

  15. I am a young writer in wattpad and I just can’t seem to find the right plotting and these helped a lot thank you so much

    1. Hi Jaymee! I’m so glad this was helpful. I am going to post some more master plot lists this summer, so follow the blog if you don’t want to miss them 🙂 There’s a place you can sign up to follow on the lefthand side of the page!

  16. I came across this list today. What a find! Coincidentally, I have your book Master Lists for Writers. I found it useful when writing my trilogy. I’m still halfway done with book 3. I also live in Kansas City, and belong to several writing groups. I am currently shopping agents. I would love to talk books with you sometime. You can find me at: http://www.facebook.com/FreedomFightTrilogy

    1. Hey Jennifer! Wow, thanks for the kind words, and way to go on being halfway done with book 3 in your trilogy! It’s awesome to meet another Kansas City writer would love to get together sometime!

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  18. Hi, I am a young aspiring writer who has written bits and bobs but I feel I am struggling to settle down on one idea but I know how I long to write about a story of romance. I feel I can work with many of these ideas so thank you as I find this really helpful. I was wondering if I could get advice on using personal experiences to use as inspiration, I was not sure of the benefits or problems with that.

    1. Hi Callum! Real life can be great raw material. 🙂 I think it can give a story more emotional force, even if you change the characters and circumstances quite a bit. And you will want to change them some. You don’t want anyone to get mad at you for putting them in your story without asking, and besides, you often need to simplify and clarify things or make them a little more dramatic in order to write the best story. Thank you for reading the blog, and good luck! I bet you’ll write something great.

  19. When you read the list of articles and realize this blog is responsible for 70% of the writing research on Pinterest. You and your kick-ass blog are wonderful. Keep being awesome as heck. On a completely unrelated topic, I just thought your smile was wonderful. ANYWAYS. DEFINITELY subscribing.

  20. Hi Bryn!!!! Ur Ideas r super duper!!!! I loved them !!! Maybe You Went A very Hard Time .Keep Up Your Amazing Work.
    I also ask You for a favour can you give me some idea for a story like….Hate to love … A Business Tycoon Falling in love with a middle class girl …sometging like that .
    It will be very helpful if you give me some ideas !

    1. Adaa, I am so sorry! I sometimes find it hard to keep up with comments on older posts, but I do try and I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you.

      You talked about the idea of a business tycoon falling in love with a middle class girl… love between people of different social classes can be a great setup! It can raise all kinds of conflicts, such as… She might get frustrated at his being out of touch with ordinary people’s concerns. He might not consider their relationship “serious” at first, because he expects to marry someone of his own high social class.

      Thanks for your kind words before — I really appreciate them!

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