Character Development Tools: The Five Love Languages
Post written by Katie Wall.
As a dating couple, Andrew and I took a quiz to figure out what our top love languages are. Why? Because understanding how we each give and receive love can make such a difference in a relationship! We were happy to discover that we share our top two love languages.
What we didn't realize right away is that love languages are a great thing to think about for any relationship—romantic or platonic.
And you know what? Understanding love languages is a great tool for character development as well!
If you've never heard of the five love languages (popularized by Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages, of which there are a variety of editions now), let me give a quick breakdown for you.
The basics of the five love languages.
The five love languages are (in no particular order):
- Physical touch
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Gift giving
- Quality time
Any given person favors certain of these languages more than the others for receiving love. They also favor certain of these languages for giving love. But guess what? The top love language for giving love is not necessarily the same as that for receiving love!
A note here about what I mean by "favor". This is not a conscious decision to demand to be loved a certain way. Instead, this is a subconscious pattern of how we are most inclined to show others our love and how we feel best loved by other people.
When we think of "love" we often limit our thoughts to romantic love. But the filter of love languages can be applied to all sorts of relationships: romantic, platonic, familial, etc.
How can this be used for character development?
There are a few ways to use this tool for character development.
First, you can use it to get to know your individual characters better. While sometimes love languages are inherent at birth, events that we experience in our lives can also influence how we prefer to give and receive love. Think about how your character's early experiences shaped them. Were they given a lot of positive physical touch? Then they might receive love that way. On the other hand, if they received negative physical contact, perhaps physical touch is their least favored way to receive love because they don't trust it.
Second, once you understand how your characters give and receive love, you can develop how giving/receiving love plays out in their interactions. If your story includes a married couple, for example, you can compare their top love languages and see how well they mesh (or not). Or if your story centers on two best friends, how do they give/receive love through their combinations of love languages?
In this way, love languages give you another dimension to deepen conflict. Where you might have made two characters be at odds (either by instinct or design on your part), now you can factor in how each of their love language preferences play into that. This depth in character development and relationship dynamics can really go a long way toward helping your reader feel compelled and drawn to your writing.
The five love languages are worthwhile for writers to explore in order to deepen character development and relationship dynamics in their writing. You can learn more about the five love languages by reading one of Gary Chapman's books about it. Since these books gained a lot of popularity, it's likely that your public library has a copy you can use!
This post is the first in a series examining various psychological tools for character development. If you haven't already signed up for our newsletter, please do so below! You'll get all of our blog posts straight to your inbox each month, as well as sneak peeks into what resources we're developing, special discounts, and more!
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