In my opinion, the key to great books is solid characters.
The key to solid characters is understanding what makes your characters tick, knowing their priorities and what drives them.
The key to gaining that sort of intimate understanding of these fictional people you've created in your brain is to study the real people and the relationships around you.
The best real person to start with is yourself.
So, let's start asking a few questions about your characters.
WHAT'S YOUR CHARACTER'S LOVE LANGUAGE?
Love language? What's love language?
The idea of someone's love language arose from Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages, in which he outlines the five ways that people give and receive love. Those five languages are:
Take the quiz here!
Here are my results (high of 12):
Acts of Service - 11
Receiving Gifts - 7
Physical Touch - 5
Quality Time - 5
Words of Affirmation - 2
I react positively to someone helping me out (like doing dishes for me) or giving me a gift (flowers are always good). Also, I tend to show love that way. If I want to show someone I love them, I'll pick up boxes for them or buy them a spontaneous gift.
Does your results make sense? Self-reflection on this can be very positive.
Now, try taking the quiz for your character. Obviously, you won't know all the answers, but just take a guess and see what results it comes up with. How did that go? Did it help you understand them better? At the very least, it should show how the tend to communicate affection.
Now, let's make it a little more interesting. Here is a table comparing my love language results with my husband's love language results:
I'm not saying that we would dislike a "good job" or a helping hand; rather, we don't take much notice. What my natural tendency is to demonstrate love doesn't make my husband feel super loved and vice versa.
Now, think of someone in your character's life. A sister, a mother, a spouse, etc. Someone they have conflict with would be good. Now try to take the test for that character. Put their results side by side. Are your characters' conflict arising out of the fact that they speak different love languages?
If they have similar results, that's fine. That means their conflict must be arising from something else.
The key here is to notice how people communicate love and what they seek from their relationships. The language we speak doesn't only affect how we communicate to someone we're romantic with; it dictates how we communicate with anyone we love and/or desire love from.
It also affects our expectations.
What we (or our characters) expect from other people is a big point for potential drama, conflict, and resolution.
On a side note, my husband and I have been practicing speaking each other's love languages. I'll try to mentally make a note to tell him how pleased I am with how he cleaned the kitchen. And he will try to make a mental note to clean the kitchen. The result is definitely a good one. Love would be easy if everyone spoke the same language; love is strong because we don't.
Soli Deo Gloria.
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