Learning to write a romance or love story plot is a valuable skill for every writer, and not just on Valentine's Day! Why? Romance is one of the most common subplots across all genres. Let's look at how to write a love story and then dive into some prompts!
Need even more story ideas? Get our top 100 short story ideas here.
Romance is one of the ten types of stories and by far one of the most commercially lucrative. Even if you aren't writing a romance novel though, the love story is often a subplot across genres. Let's take a look at what readers expect.
Basics of a Romance AKA Love Story
If you're writing a love story, keep a few things in mind. The primary value in these stories is love vs. hate. Readers expect to see two people meet (called the meet-cute) or to see a couple about to break up. We want to know if they'll end up together and how. The conflict can stem from any number of complications.
The crisis will be directly tied to “will they or won't they declare their love” and the character must act to prove their love in the climax. Ultimately, they will find their way back to each other in the end, hopefully in an unexpected but satisfying way.
Also, if you want to learn exactly how to do this on your own, check out our definitive guide on how to write a love story. It has everything you need, from common love story character archetypes to love story masterworks to the seven steps to write a love story. Check out the post here.
With that in mind, give one of these romance story prompts a try and see where it goes!
A few notes:
- I'll do my best to keep these suggestions PG-13, but the genre DOES call for a bit of intimacy.
- Fair warning: my brain is a little odd, so these will not be your usual romance plots.
- Expect some gender-swapping.
- Speaking of gender, I'm writing these with the intent that you can do anything with the gender of any character in the prompt. Keep that in mind.
- Have fun! When it comes to romance, a sense of humor is always a good idea.
20 Romance Story Ideas
- She's a cop. He's the owner of a jewelry store. A sudden rash of break-ins brings her to his store over and over and over again, until it becomes obvious that he might be tripping the alarm on purpose—just to see her. That's illegal—but she's kind of falling for him, too. Write the moment she realizes she has to do something about this crazy illicit courtship.
- Two dirt-poor art students survive by sharing a nasty little apartment above a bodega. They struggle through four years, barely making ends meet, comforting one another through tragedies and triumph, but never openly admit how they feel about each other…until they graduate, and one of them gets a job in another city. Is it too late to confess their love?
- Colorado Animal Rescue has never been more challenging than after that zoo caught on fire. Sally Cougar (no jokes on the name, or she'll kill you) tracks down three missing tiger cubs, only to find they've been adopted by millionaire Bryce Champion. Thanks to an antiquated law on the books, he legally has the right to keep them. It's going to take everything Sally has to get those tiger cubs back.
- Ever heard of Balkan Sworn Virgins? Let's take that concept further. Unspecified ancient times; matriarchal society. Only a queen may ascend to the throne, and only daughters have been born to the royal family for generations—but to everyone's amazement, this royal couple had a son. To avoid some unpleasant relative taking over, the prince must become a princess in appearance, dress, and behavior—which makes things REALLY awkward because “she” has been betrothed to a neighboring prince before he—er, she—was born.
- She's a nurse trying to work her way through both her massive student debt and the everyday living expenses of Boston. Desperate for cash, she takes a job as a model for a late-night sculpting workshop, and initially doesn't question why the workshop organizer keeps paying her more than agreed. Or keeps insisting on ordering delivery so she goes home with food. Or keeps making sure she gets the job even though several other people are trying for it. Initially, she doesn't question anything; when she finally does, how will she handle this attention? Is it adorable or terrifying?
- Horticulture…in space! It's “the future,” and humans are in communication with an interdimensional alien species—but the only way they CAN communicate is telepathically via a certain type of plant. Elizabeth, the top human horticulturist, has been navigating these odd waters with the alien's top horticulturist for the past ten years. Whether she admits it or not, this being she's never seen is her closest friend and confidante. When the door between dimensions finally opens and she meets her counterpart, she's in for two surprises: one, he's tall, green, and gorgeous; and two, he thinks they've been courting all this time—and expects her to drop everything and marry him at once. How does she respond?
- He's a museum curator with a fetish for perfection. No one's ever gotten close to him; how could they? They're never as perfect as the portraits, the sculptures, the art that never changes. Then one day, an intern is hired on—a young, messy, disorganized intern, whose hair and desk are in a constant state of disarray. The curator is going half-mad with this walking embodiment of chaos; so why can't the he stand the thought of the intern leaving at the end of their assistantship?
- Yalena used to breed greyhounds; now, she rescues them. But one of the most powerful magnates in the racing industry takes issue with her efforts, and sends a professional saboteur to infiltrate her grassroots organization to undermine it from within. Unfortunately, that saboteur quickly finds Yalena's spirit and determination irresistible (not to mention her perky smile and gorgeous eyes). Failure isn't an option; what's a formerly heartless corporate terrorist to do?
- He's a cop—one of the good ones—and when an undercover bust went bad ten years ago, his wife and small child were killed. He swore he'd never love again. Then his old partner retires, only to be replaced by a wide-eyed, spunky rookie, whose seemingly impossible innocence and joie de vivre remind him life is worth living again. This could only end in disaster…right? Dare he make the first move?
- She's working her way to the top the only way a woman can in this business: by being absolutely ruthless, heartless, and six times as tough as the men. But when one of those men, an underling, begins to soften her heart, she panics. Will she take their relationship off the books? Or take the “safe” path and send him away?
More Story Ideas
- 80% of Soviet males born in 1923 didn’t survive World War II. Describe a young Russian widow, alone now on her family's farm, who finds love again in the most unexpected of places: the ostler hired to care for the horses.
- Fun fact: There was a remarkable cat in World War II named Unsinkable Sam, who survived the sinking of not one, not two, but THREE vessels in the war. No, I'm not making this up. This is so marvelous that we're going to go in two different directions with it: First, write from the perspective of Sam the magical cat, whose job is overseeing burgeoning romance among humans. Describe his frustration over the fact that every time he's just about got the right couple together, SOMEBODY has to go and sink the boat. Again.
- Now, write from the perspective of Martha, the widow who adopts Sam after the war. This kitty (the animal, not the woman) has been through a lot, and Martha takes him to the local vet, who happens to be single, lonely, and continually inventing reasons for her to bring the cat back in for more appointments. (“I need you to bring the cat in, Mrs. Smith. There's a possibility he contracted Saline Fever/Gooshy Madness/Purr Dementia/The Whiskered Moist.”)
- After a horrible car accident, Charlene struggles through years of physical therapy to regain her mobility. Her PT (physical therapist) is a young man she initially assumes is married, which is upsetting because she falls in love with him. Describe her reaction the day she realizes she was wrong.
- Fantasy time! The werewolves and vampires (all of whom are, naturally, ridiculously sexy) have been at war for centuries. Unfortunately, the crown vampire prince and the chief werewolf's daughter have been meeting in secret to fight and show off and act out their people's aggression. In the process, their little rivalry turns into something a lot more heated.
- The Aztec warrior prince Matlal can't be beaten. By the time he's twenty, he's stronger, faster, and a better fighter than anyone in his kingdom, and one might say it's given him a big head. When he first encounters Chinese explorers (China very likely reached South America in the 1500s, just FYI), he thinks these strangers are just another chance for him to prove his prowess…and REALLY does not expect the diminutive captain to somehow spin him around and beat him most thoroughly via martial arts. Bad: the captain is short and looks weak. Even worse: the captain is a woman. What happens next?
- For her graduate thesis, a young woman attending the University of Cape Town is doing a study on the folklore of Anansi the trickster and how he shaped various cultures throughout western Africa. Exhausted and overworked, even she can't help but notice that the professor seems too interested in what she finds…and more than that, seems to resemble the subject of her research a little too closely for comfort. Against all reason, she suspects he might be THE Anansi—which is more than a little terrifying. Is he playing with her, or is he actually falling in love? And even if he is, would she dare respond?
- There are many ancient tales about love and desire in Hindu mythology. Write from the perspective of young adults in modern-day Dehli who've only met online, and are convinced they are the reincarnation of ill-fated lovers, Moomal and Mahendra (spellings vary). They believe they're supposed to be together, but equally afraid a misunderstanding will lead to more tragedy and death. Remember, they've never met: write out one of their instant messenger conversations as they try to figure out what they ought to do.
- There's an ancient Blackfoot legend about Feather Woman and the Morning Star. Let's mess with that a bit. One day, the Morning Star fell in love with a young secretary working in Detroit. But there's a problem; in order to come to earth and express his love, he has to pass a test: he has to show up on her doorstep without his powers, perhaps even without clothes, and convince her to take him in. How does THAT conversation go?
- It's 1700s provincial France, and sixteen-year-old Beau is a clever young man who's too curious for his own good. One day, he decides to go poking around the abandoned castle-that-you-should-never-go-near, and in the process, disturbs the hideous female creature who lives there. She captures him… and promptly explains that to break her curse, he must fall in love with her. In exchange, she promises tons of gold for Beau's family. Like a business arrangement, right? Write what happens next.
Do any of these story ideas get you in the story telling mood? Let us know in the comments.
It's time to get creative with some romance story prompts! Take fifteen minutes and develop one of these story ideas into at least one scene. Don't edit yourself! Set your imagination free, then post your practice. Don't forget to leave feedback for other writers!
Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.
Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.
When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.
P.S. Red is still her favorite color.