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How to make readers believe the "I love you" or How to Nail the Maybe Beat

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

I'd like to talk to you today about the beat called "MAYBE THIS COULD WORK" in the Falling in Love phase of your romance arc. This beat does not have to have a whole scene, though it can. It's often part of a larger deepening desire beat (remember you can have lots of these) and it's subtle but necessary. If it's missing, your cue is often readers saying things like, "The I love you seemed unbelievable. It came out of nowhere."

And you, the now day drinking author, look through your manuscript at all the wonderful ways you showed (didn't tell cuz you're awesome) that the characters were perfect for each other. Why didn't the I love you come across?

It's the Maybe Beat. Specifically, it's the missing Maybe Beat.

What's the fix? How do you nail that beat?

During or after a particularly intense Deepening Desire Beat--your character should think or say to someone something along the lines of, "If it were not for my festering internal wound/haunting personal demons/this darn mask I wear to avoid getting hurt/all my copious No Way reasons, I could really fall for this other person."

It can be retracted immediately. It can be ignored. Forgotten about. Disregarded. But it needs to be there.

Why, Gwen? Why?

Even if you show the characters being exactly what the other needs, you also need to show the reader that somewhere, the character is beginning to notice it too. Even if they say "but alas, it's not to be..." they need to soften briefly.

In television and movies, we witness the actors' subtle yearning glances (especially in romances we ship that aren't a thing yet!), little almost touches, and expressions that are visual to viewers watching but perhaps unnoticed by the character doing it. When you are writing deep POV, you can't say, "she didn't notice her eyes softening when she watched him leave" because you can't comment in her POV about what she's not noticing. Well, you could but it would be bad writing.

It's hard to bely unnoticed emotions through action and facial expressions the way a physical actor can. If you need an example, think of the way Jim looks at Pam from the very beginning of The Office series. (The screenwriters had the luxury of voiceover, which most don't.) But we have internal dialogue in our toolbox where screenwriters can only put things on page the audience can see and hear (except for voiceovers and breaking the 4th wall.)

This missing beat is often most problematic in enemies to lovers romance. It can feel to the reader like, "argue argue kiss argue argue sex argue argue I love you." Without showing the characters change their mind, we wonder when they changed their mind. By showing this initial softening of their stance, when they have their epiphany during the Wake Up and Smell the Coffee Beat, it doesn't feel contrived or forced. So use that maybe beat to make them wonder what it would be like if they weren't so bent on whatever is keeping them apart. Maybe this time...nah, I can't...but what, stop going down that road.

*If you're unfamiliar with the romance beats, check out my book: Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels available in eBook, print, and audio.


Are you getting ready to query agents and editors? I have a new submission package critique that includes your query letter, short synopsis, and 10-15 pages of your opening. For more details go here:

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I'll be taking some time off to care for family. I'll post here when RtB opens back up for critique services. If you've already booked, this won't affect your booking. I'm just not scheduling anything

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