"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Seven Story Beats To Help Outline Your Romantic Comedy

1. The Chemical Equation: Setup

A scene or sequence identifying the exterior and /or interior conflict (i.e. unfulfilled desire), the “what’s wrong with this picture” implied in the protagonist’s (and/or the antagonist’s) current status quo.

2. Cute Meet: The Catalyst

The inciting incident that brings man and woman [or man and man or woman and woman] together and into conflict; an inventive but credible contrivance, often amusing, which in some way sets the tone for the action to come.

3. A Sexy Complication: Turning Point

Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 1, a new development that raises story stakes and clearly defines the protagonist’s goal; most successful when it sets man and woman at cross-purposes and/or their inner emotions at odds with the goal.

4. The Hook: Midpoint

A situation that irrevocably binds the protagonist with the antagonist (often while tweaking sexual tensions) and has further implications for the outcome of the relationship.

5. Swivel: Second Turning Point

Traditionally occurring at the end of Act 2, stakes reach their highest point as the romantic relationship’s importance jeopardizes the protagonist’s chance to succeed at his [or her] stated goad–or vice versa–and his [or her] goal shifts.

6. The Dark Moment: Crisis Climax

Wherein the consequences of the swivel decision yield disaster; generally, the humiliating scene where private motivations are revealed, and either the relationship and/or the protagonist’s goal is seemingly lost forever.

7. Joyful Defeat: Resolution

A reconciliation that reaffirms the primal importance of the relationship; usually a happy ending that implies marriage or a serious commitment, often at the cost of some personal sacrifice to the protagonist.

via Billy Mernit defines the “seven basic romantic comedy beats” in Writing the Romantic Comedy   


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