Have you ever heard of the book "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman? A great book for understanding how we each show and receive love in our personal relationships with a spouse, child, or friends.
Image courtesy of Amazon.
Today I wanted to throw out some suggestions as to how these principles can be applied to deepen the characters in our stories....
The Five Love Languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
Words of Affirmation:
A character with this love language will show love--and receive love--by saying it out loud. This character won't 'feel' loved unless the other person says it, writes it as a note, or expresses love via some form of words... (sky writing anyone??).
Not just applicable to romance stories, Joe Blow living his life in an action adventure isn't going to feel appreciated/liked/any-other-substitute-love-word-that-men-use by his best buddy unless it's verbalized.
He's going to be the one jotting down notes, or dispensing advice/encouragement when the chips are down. He'll also reach for that last burst of energy when someone encourages him verbally. She'll be the one who always says "I love you" before hanging up the phone. Who writes cute Post-It notes and sticks them to the fridge...and who will be devastated if her significant other doesn't say "I love you" in reply.
This is the character (typically female) that is always at the other for 'spending time with me'.
Needs eye-to-eye contact.
Undivided attention. If the TV is on, or the other character's gaze keeps drifting toward the door...watch out!
Providing that quality, individual time for a character can be a challenge, especially if there is high stakes or a tight deadline involved in the storyline. What sort of unique challenges can you think up that would either make the character feel more loved (full from Quality Time), or unloved/unwanted?
This one is easy to pick ... they never show up at a party or dinner without something in hand, usually gift wrapped. A character whose love language is gifts will keep mementos, and delights in surprising the other person with gifts. Think mums with a 'little something special' in a lunchbox for a child/spouse. A killer who leaves a parting 'gift' with his victim. A friend who saves the best lolly for you. Flowers from hubby--for no particular reason.
Side note: in my book 3 which I am planning to write, the hero has this love language. He collects something special in each town as he is searching for the heroine, and plans on giving them to her when they are reunited. He always buys carefully thought out gifts for special occasions, and he doesn't really understand hugs. :)
Acts of Service:
She is the first to offer to clean up after a church pot luck.
He has changed the oil in her car faithfully for 20 years and held down a steady job...because he loves her.
Walking the neighbours dog, or helping to pull weeds are done with enthusiasm and vim. The quintessential Girl Guide/Boy Scout, "Lend a Hand" is their daily motto.
But what if someone doesn't want their help? What if he is super organized and never allows her to help in any way? What if the mother-in-law is controlling (sorry to any MIL's out there!) and she can't do anything to feel like she has a place in the family? What if all his acts of service are only viewed as duties, and not for the acts of love that they are? What if, what if....
This is apparently the most common love language to men, usually expressed through sex or frequent touch--a hand to a shoulder, or sitting close on the couch.
You've met this character at church, or in a group of friends...they hug and they touch. They hug often...and they don't like to let go. (Can you tell this isn't my love language? lol). I once met a lady who LOVED to hug, and when she attended her son's wedding, she wore a wrist corsage so her flowers wouldn't get crushed from hugging. She planned her hugging, even down to her corsage choices. True story!
Examples: Think of a chatty teen who intersperses her conversation with frequent taps to the other person's arm/shoulder.
The son who gives a quick hug on the way out the door, or likes to play tag.
The toddler who likes to sit on dad's lap, or wrap her arms around mum's leg while they are waiting in line.
The teenage couple who are practically joined at the hip. And so on.
On the flip side, a character whose love language is Physical Touch is going to get himself into strife when he's in an all-guy situation, especially if the other men have larger personal space, or don't like being touched--even a friendly clap on the shoulder. The wife who just wants a hug vs. the husband who always buys flowers. The mum who hugs and the teen daughter who just wants to be told she's loved.
How to apply:
Any character will most likely only 'speak' the love language they know personally. They don't 'speak' the other person's language, just like my character who likes to give gifts but doesn't see the big deal with hugs. He doesn't 'speak' her language, and nor will he--until he learns it.
I think applying these principles would be most helpful in romance stories, but people are people no matter what story they live in, so this could easily be used in other genres as well. :)
Suggestion: pick two main characters and assign a love language to them. Then think about what characteristics they would have from that. How would they interact with each other within those boundaries? What weaknesses would they have? What strengths? How can you pit them against each other to make sparks fly? And how can you resolve this in the end to a satisfactory conclusion? What do they learn about each other?
The Five Love Languages. Great book. I highly recommend it, not just for your characters, but also for yourself. It really helps to put the boot on the other foot and try to understand how other people work. Personally, it really helped me as a teen to see why my dad would never say he loved me or hug me, but would take me with him when he went to work down the paddock or visited friends. Once I understood the different languages we each speak I could interpret his, and other people's actions and--most importantly--see the love behind it.
God has made us in his image, a now cracked reflection of his perfection. In him, all five love languages dwell perfectly together. Let us purpose to show love to one another--in all languages and always with each other's good in mind. And may our characters do likewise.
All the best as you write for His glory, Lucy. <3