Using the W Plot by Lynne Marshall

This week we have author Lynne Marshall sharing with us The Romance Story Paradigm using the W PLOT. And she has a new book out, Forever a Father (The Delaneys of Sandpiper Beach). 

You can connect with Lynne Marshall on the Web:

 Website          Facebook    


The beginning – h/h meet – the inciting incident

1st plot point – launches the story.  The story question is raised.  Solid attraction is developed between the H&H, even though they may start out as arch enemies – there is this nagging attraction that cannot be denied.

Moving up toward the first peak of the W – The H&H get to know each other better, 1st kiss, and many problems arise.  Stakes get higher.  Matters get worse.

Peak of W - Middle of the book –A monkey wrench gets thrown into the mix.  Often a love scene can do this – irrevocably bonding the H/H to each other.  This is the point of no return.

In the second half of the book the heroine must deal with the fact that she has feelings for the hero.  Romances are all about emotion, emotion, emotion.  Don’t be afraid to delve deeply into the issues of loving someone who, by all outward signs, is the worst person in the world for you.

Sliding down that W peak – first there is that rosy glow, some reflection, the future looks bright!

Things continue to go downhill, stakes get higher, more problems arise relating to your first plot point.

Bottom of W – Plot point two – This is the second major turning point which leads to an inevitable crisis.

The tough climb up that last W peak – Crisis!  What we call in romance – the darkest moment.  All seems lost.  There is no way their love can pull through this crisis.  The heroine makes a difficult choice and devises a plan.

Heroine continues up W slope – feeling like Sisyphus attempting to follow through on her plan.  A change in attitude is required, rededication to the plot adventure – the heroine commits to the romantic involvement vowing to work things out.

Stakes get higher, screws tighten – plan adjustments required here.  Character faces worst fear makes a sacrifice and embraces new goal.

BUT the hero makes a sacrifice of his own – for the heroine.  Each character must give up something in order to grow.  With this comes newfound wisdom for both, willingness to compromise, which is total necessity for love to survive.

Here is where the Romance promise comes into play:  The heroine reaches final level of stability, on higher ground than where she first started, and she has found her true love in the process.

Let’s use a recent popular movie to illustrate the process:


Opening scene – Super editor Margaret is getting deported to Canada and won’t be able to come back for one year, which means she’ll lose her job – the job she lives for since she has no other life.

Lead up to plot point I – i.e. call to action – She bamboozles her assistant, Andrew, into marrying her.  He seizes the moment and makes sure she’ll make him an editor if he goes along with her ruse.  She agrees.  He makes a completely phony statement to convince the publishers - “We are two people who weren’t supposed to fall in love…”  This is a foreshadowing statement.

He takes her home for his Gammy’s birthday.  Margaret realizes Andrew comes from money, has a family that loves him, and isn’t the person she has pegged him to be.  His family throws a party in honor of their fake engagement.  They humiliate each other.  They realize they need to quit bickering and act like they’re in love in order to pull this off.

Plot point I - They kiss and feel something.  The story question:  Will Margaret and Andrews be able to pull this off?

Confrontation or getting to know you phase –

They have to share a bedroom.  They bond singing a silly song together.  She gets to know his family

The screws tighten when they run into each other naked.

Midpoint (tip of W) Andrew’s family forces them to marry right then.  Margaret gets swept up with the preparations and with his family.  She tries on his Gammy’s wedding dress.

Confrontation She has forgotten what it is like to have a family. Here’s the monkey wrench: she feels guilty about her manipulating plan. She almost drowns.  Andrew rescues her and comforts her.  She feels cared for and it shakes her up.

Plot point II -- The immigration officer shows up, and Andrew’s father makes a deal to get him off.  Andrew doesn’t accept the deal and tells Margaret he really wants to marry her.

Crisis (The black moment) – Margaret can’t go through with the wedding.  She confesses in front of everyone that it is all a sham, takes full responsibility, and runs out.

Andrew chases her to the airport to confront her

The screws tighten - Margaret gets away, but not before Andrew realizes he really has fallen in love with her.

Climax – Andrew shows up in New York where Margaret is clearing out her office.  In front of everyone, he asks her to marry him.  She admits she’s more comfortable in life alone.  He won’t let her take the easy way out.

Anti-climax – They kiss in front of everyone.

The story is brought full circle when she accepts his honest and heartfelt proposal.

A good romance will clutch your heart, make you laugh or cry (hopefully both) and leave you with a good feeling.  That feeling is called hope, and hope is a hot commodity these days!

One more thing the W plot paradigm is good for is to help form your structure when writing your book’s synopsis!

Forever a Father (The Delaneys of Sandpiper Beach)

“Will you be my dad?”

Ask me anything but that.

Once upon a time, Dr. Daniel Delaney had it all. But he lost it in the blink of an eye, and he won’t let himself fall again—not even for his dedicated new assistant, Keela O’Mara, and her adorable, lonely little girl, Anna. Resisting a starry-eyed four-year-old is tough enough. Denying her perfect, loving single mom may be more than Daniel can handle…

Buy on:

Amazon Kindle            Amazon Paperback 

Amazon UK                 Amazon Aust


  1. I hadn't thought of it like that. But that's a good way to describe a romance's structure.

    1. Hi Liz, thanks for reading. Hope you found the blog useful for your writing.

  2. Hi Nas and Lynne - I'd have never have known what the W-plot meant ... but it's been so well described here ... cheers to you both - Hilary

    1. Hello Hilary - I'm glad the have described the process and I hope it's helpful in your future writing endeavors

  3. How interesting! I look at plotting models all the time, and this is the first time I've come across this one. I don't write romance, but I can see applications elsewhere. Awesome post!

    1. Raimey - absolutely. This plot model fits any genre. It wasn't created for romance, but works well for the format.

  4. Interesting post. I don't like the idea of books being too formulaic, but you're right that many romances do have this structure.

    1. Hi Patsy - would you call the hero's journey formulaic? Some would, but I call it plot structure. There are certain expectations with all genres, when not met, the readers of those beloved genres feel cheated. What do you write?

  5. I didn't realize it was such a detailed science. But romance does have a standard formula.

  6. I learned a lot! I hadn't heard of this structure before- but it makes sense to me based on the romance books I have read. :) Best of luck to Lynne!

    1. DMS - Thank for reading and I'm glad you learned things from the blog. This plot structure can be used for any genre

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Interesting insight. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I love that outline. Very dense, very on par. Some people freak out about writing based on a formula, but I've read enough books that DON'T follow one to know that they're always a good idea.

  10. Thank you for this detailed explanation of how to structure and plot a novel.


Join the discussion. What do you think?