What’s Your Character’s Love Language?

Do you know your characters' love languages?

Do you know your characters’ love languages?

It’s no secret, here on the blog, that I was strongly affected by reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and coming to understand mine and my husband’s particular languages. It has strengthened our relationship and helped us communicate. I’m also now looking at the children and trying to understand how they feel love.

But, being me, I never miss an opportunity to put my life lessons to work on my writing.

Today, at the end of walking the dog – it taking that long for my drugged brain to start working – I turned my mind to the dilemma of my current writer’s block. I’m trying to pen an emotional scene in Class Act, to get my protagonist Rebecca past a difficult experience in her life, without having any direct knowledge of the issue.

I don’t want to belabour the point. Like the postnatal depression in Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes (which I do have experience of), the issues in Rebecca’s past are important for the effect they have on her character and relationships, but I don’t want them forming the be all and end all of the novel. I’m writing genre fiction not literary fiction and aiming for a happy ever after, albeit a plausible one that survives challenges.

So I wondered how I could help Rebecca get through the difficulty most quickly, and whether that could be done genuinely with the right man without it all seeming too convenient and unrealistic. It made me ponder what her Love Language might be and I realised that – for her – the love language has to be Words of Affirmation. Therefore Alex, the love interest, needs to talk to her, reassure her, convince her of his sincerity. I’m not sure what his Love Language is yet. I think his might be Quality Time. That’s the thing lacking from his childhood and the thing he yearned for in his failed relationship at the start of the novel.

I feel as empowered in my writing as I did in my marriage by looking at things this way. I have also realised that I know my characters better than I might give myself credit for. I think I’ll use the five love languages again when considering my romantic protagonists. It’s a new, interesting and simple way to ensure coherent, three-dimensional characters, particularly in the Romance genre.

Just goes to show, you can learn from the strangest of sources. As a friend of mine used to say, “Every day’s a school day.”

When is it good enough?

Once again I woke with a story in my head. Well, not so much a story as a What if on my own life. Actually much of my fiction is based on that premise, so much so that I sometimes write the real names instead of the pseudo made up ones. This was definitely one of those.

Of course, me being me, I immediately abandoned my current novel (the one that also came in a dream, the one where, 35k words in, I still have no idea what it’s about) to write this story. Luckily it came out as a short story, two scenes, 2,700 words. I’d nailed it in less than two hours over tea and toast in the coffee shop, after dropping off the kids.

Problem is, I think it’s great. I bought a copy of Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special on the way home (I don’t know a lot about where to sell short stories, so it seemed a good place to start) and I’m all set to send it in. Besides I need to get something published soon before the bills send me back to work.

And that’s my Achilles Heel.

Having been told in the past that my writing was dull, any time I pen anything vaguely readable I’m just so excited I think This is it!

Of course, in reality, I should add ‘sh’ to the beginning of that last word because, as a first draft, it undoubtedly is. The difficulty for me is, once I’ve accepted the ‘sh’ bit, I don’t know what I need to do to make it better.

I write in a certain style, quite simple and chatty. Should I be more descriptive, build in alliteration, metaphors, similes? More sounds, smells, colour? Make my plots more complicated or daring. Make my characters suffer more, make them funnier? And if I do all that (assuming I can, of course, which is another issue entirely), will it retain what I love most; the easy going chatty style? And more importantly, will it sell?

I was always told to write for intrinsic rather than extrinsic reasons: I do love to write and that’s mostly why I do write, but, you know, the bills still need to be paid. I know that only a lucky few make a fortune as a writer, and not that many make a living. I just need to make enough to pay for childcare.  

Hmmm. Answers on a post card please!