Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Are Your Characters' Love Languages?

I recently had a conversation with a writing friend of mine. She had a dilemma in her current WIP. Her male character had some major stuff going on, and she wondered what her female character could do to make him feel better/lift his spirits.

Of course, our first thought was to give him.... Ah hem. Well, you get the idea. But the more I thought about it, I realized he'd, of course, like the physical contact, but it wouldn't be long lasting for him. Why? Because Physical Touch isn't is primary love language. He is an Acts of Service type of guy.

There is a book by an author named Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. The author is Christian, mind you. But even if you aren't Christian, I believe the information inside the book is invaluable. For your marriage. For you children. And even for interaction with your parents and siblings. It's helped me understand the people around me, and it's even helped me understand myself. And now, it's helping me as a writer understand my characters, enabling me to make them more three-dimensional and real.

Just to break it all down for you. There are 5 love languages that people use to show and recieve affection.

  1. Acts of Service
  2. Physical Touch
  3. Time Spent
  4. Words of Affirmation
  5. Gifts

There are typically one or two of these that stand out to each of us. For example, Time Spent is my primary love language. Whereas Physical Touch is my husbands. So if my husband wants to show me that he loves me, his primary inclination would be to give me hugs and smooches. Unfortunately (for him) Physical Touch is like the 4th on my list. So, because he knows that about me, he forces himself to spend time with me. And I force myself to cuddle with him more, because I know that is how he recives love.

The same goes for my children. My oldest is also Time Spent. She hovers around me ALL THE TIME. Drives me crazy sometimes, but I know it is because she loves me. So to show her I care, I'll invite her out to a one on one shopping trip. Gifts is her secondary love language, so on our trip I'll buy her a little something. She feels loved.

My youngest daughter is Words of Affirmation. I will tell her she is special and wonderful and you can just see her glow with love.

So you can see that the same concepts can help us build our characters, help us understand how they would react. A Words of Affirmation gal would be more greatly affected by someone yelling at her and telling her he hates her. A Gifts character would be more moved by receiving a present. A Time Spent character would mentally gush over the lovely evening they spent with their romantic interest. A woman who is Physical Touch would be more moved by a kiss on the hand. The hard male character that is Acts of Service would DO something for the woman he loves. Like my friend's character. He repaired her horse's saddle for her, because he cares.

So, what is YOUR love language? 
And, what is the primary love language of your main character? 

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Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

I think most men go for physical touch first - that's how they're wired - whereas most of us would prefer time spent over physical. Actually, that's what makes us want to GO to physical. ;) This is a good thing to remember when writing about relationships, Kristal. Thank you!


Katrina L. Lantz said...

This is brilliant! You've just given me some inspiration for my Nano novel! Thanks, Kristal!

Azalea is definitely a Time Spent and Words of Affirmation person and Gabe is Gifts and Acts of Service. That totally helps me to understand how their complicated relationship needs to develop. Off to write now...

roh morgon said...

Wow - this is kind of mind-blowing. I never thought about it like that. My hubby is a total Acts of Service kinda guy, and physical touch is his second. Guess that's why he's never showered me w/ material gifts - his gifts are the countless little things he does every day to make my life easier. I already knew this about him, but hadn't seen it categorized before. I wanna go hug him right now!

What great insight, and something to definitely keep in mind when working with our characters.

Awesome post - thanks for sharing!

Matthew MacNish said...

Interesting concept, especially when you begin to consider that certain gestures can fall into more than one category. Great post!

Kell Andrews said...

Very interesting concept, Kristal. Another layer to add to characters, and something to think about in personal relationships too.

Jolene Perry said...

Pretty cool. I think about it for myself and my family but maybe haven't put enough thought into it for my characters. Your timing is perfect for my nano project!

Nicole Zoltack said...

What a great post. I'm doing to sit and figure out how my characters fall in this list.

Rachel Harris said...

I've taught on the Five Love Languages a few times at church but never thought about applying it to my WIP. Great idea. thanks!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I've read The Five Love Languages. What a great idea to use it with our characters! :-)

Michelle McLean said...

awesome post! The first thing I thought of was my kids (kidlet # 1 - words of afirmation; kidlet 2 - total Time Spent girl...I can't pry her off my hip most days LOL) I'll definitely have to print this one out. Excellent! :D

Michelle McLean said...

p.s. though I realized this about my kids, it didn't really hit home till just now - now I want to wake them up and tell #1 how wonderful he is and spend an extra 5 mins with #2 LOL

And I've already starting listing the ways my characters fall in these categories :D I may have to link to this post a time or two :D

Anonymous said...

I've never thought of using this on my characters ... fantastic idea

Michelle Gregory said...

ahem... i like the ahem idea and still might use it. and i figured out he's a gifts kind of guy instead of doing acts of service. glad i could give you fodder for a blog post. ;)

Unknown said...

I use this! The Love Languages are definitely a huge help both in real relationships and writing. I'm a physical touch/quality time kind of girl. The hero in my WIP is Words of Affirmation and the heroine is Service.

N. R. Williams said...

I had never thought of this. I think I crave solitude. It's because I'm a writer. Fortunately my man is a trucker...so I get a lot of solitude and when he is home I don't mind leaving the blog or the current wip for time with him. He is definitely a cuddle kind of guy, but he wasn't always, so people change. My characters...I'd have to think about that longer since I never considered it before. That sounds like a great book to add to my shelf. Thanks for sharing.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author