L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore

Love is all that I can give to you
Love is more than just a game for two
Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don’t break it
Love was made for me and you

The above song, L-O-V-E, made popular by Nat King Cole, has been heard throughout the airwaves for over forty years. It whispers “you’re special and adored,” and air brushes pictures of hope, possibility, happiness, commitment, and promise.

Everyone wants to be loved, be it Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’s The Christmas Carole, or the Grinch from Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Whether romance, suspense, thriller, action, sci-fi, fantasy or mystery, each story character, even the villain, has a special love language—something that makes them tick and feel valuable. Something that fills them up and brings warmth to their heart, even if for a brief moment.

In his book, The Five Love Languages, (Northfield Publishing) Gary Chapman addresses these love languages and breaks them down into five categories:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch

Just as the Myers-Briggs, Carl Jung, Lowery True Color, or Smalley/Grant Lion-Beaver-Otter-Golden Retriever personality identifiers can help a writer profile their characters, so can The Five Love Languages. Let’s use the Grinch, for example. Until Cindy Lou came along no one ever wanted to hang out with Mr. Grinch because he was so awful. He said mean things, did mean things, and pushed himself as far away from society as possible. So if I wanted to introduce a character who would create an opposite effect on him, I would take a hard look at the one thing the Grinch did the most that seemed opposite of his love language. Once I figured out that I would be able to understand his heart better.

Same with good ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens already knew what kind of man Scrooge was. All he had to do after that was create a character who was generous rather than stingy (notice the opposite). And because Scrooge’s love language was gifts, Bob Cratchit was able to emotionally give Scrooge the love language he needed.

But what about good guys? And romance? How can the five love languages help there? Take Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Why is it that they always seemed to be hit-and-miss? Could it be different love languages? Scarlett liked to be wooed and adored. She liked to hear how lovely she was. Unfortunately Rhett wasn’t the words of affirmation type, thus the two of them seemed to fall short of true love throughout the book. And the fact that their love language never met in the middle kept the romantic tension alive and the reader on the edge of their seat, wanting…hoping…that things would turn out okay in the end.

If you don’t have a copy of Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, I recommend you pick one up. It’s not only a good tool for your marriage, but also comes in handy when trying to figure out why your bad guy is bad, or why two good characters just can’t seem to make things work. And who knows? Maybe if the Grinch, Scrooge, Rhett and Scarlett had read the book, they would have discovered that their problems were nothing more than a misunderstood love language. 🙂

“L-O-V-E,” words and music by Bert Kaempfert and Milt Gabler © 1964

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