Notes from the Love Languages workshop - 201017

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Creating characters can be hard. Join us as Jenny Johnson introduces the group to the concept of love languages, how they can be used to create characters, and how they can be used to develop (or destroy) character relationships.

Slides and zoom video recording

In attendance

  • Jenny Johnson
  • Sam McAdams
  • Errol McLendon
  • Sarah Vu
  • Jennifer Bauer
  • Julie RUle
  • Barbara Dill-Varga
  • Tim Yao
  • jlang
  • Jennifer Stasinopoulos
  • Karen Limbrick
  • Lauren

Discussion

Love Languages - using Communications Styles to Build Character Relationships or Tear Them Apart

  • Love = combination of affection, sense of belonging, self-worth
    • can apply to all relationships
  • Love languages was developed by Gary Chapman, a marriage counselor.
  • This is a good idea to get a grasp of how people work when they are in relationships with each other.
  • Good characters --> good stories
  • We will use Love Languages to build a character template to build characters who are consistent, with consistency in how they interact with those around them
  • Goal: more rich, realistic stories; characters who behave like real people
  • Words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, physical touch, acts of service
  • Test at https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quiazes/singles-quiz
  • Then go to https://www.menti.com enter 60 08 904 and answer the questions to see a live representation of the group
    • words of affirmation - 1
    • acts of service - 2
    • receiving gifts - 0
    • quality time - 3
    • physical touch - 1
  • 5 guessed right; 2 guessed wrong
  • Come up with your own definition of what each love language is
    • come up with two examples between different types of relationships
  1. Words of Affirmation / Quality time
    • verbal appreciation from others of things important to you (being interested in you)
      • If I have a great success in my world, she celebrates with me and congratulates me
      • Or if she asks about how things are going towards a project, it means a lot to me
      • Showing interest in what is going on in your life, what's important to you. Acknowledgement of what you are going through (if a negative emotion).
      • Bolstering you up, supporting you through a tough time
      • Love = providing support to people
      • "I love you" --> hearing aloud in words (or seeing it written)
      • "Recognition that I see what you are doing"
      • Being recognized is important
    • Quality time = spending time with people (on a project or being with them in the same space)
      • conversation is just a small part of it; it is making time and arranging time
      • putting the electronic device down
      • choosing exclusively you over every other person to spend time with
        • sitting in a deep conversation
        • choosing a group or being invited to see a movie
        • going to have dinner or lunch with someone without distractions
        • hanging out on a balcony or going on a trip together
        • reading together (reading to children)
  2. Acts of Service / Physical touch

Definitions (Chapman)

  • Words of Affirmation
    • feel loved when you are complimented, praised, encouraged, and/or acknowledged
      • Affirmation = being told you are loved (verbal confirmation)
  • Quality Time
    • feel loved when you get to spend time with someone (focused attention)
      • taking a walk, going on vacation, taking a class together
      • knowing someone is hearing you and sharing experiences and ideas
  • Gifts
    • receiving a gift with thought behind it
  • Acts of Service
    • when someone does a task for you, asked or unasked
    • tasks have a hierachy
      • chores, picking up the kids, rubbing your feet, helping with homework, assisting with projects, cooking dinner
  • Physical Touch
    • Holding hands, cuddling, back rubs, doing someone's hair, linking arms
    • dependent on the culture you were raised in
    • in America, you won't touch them; in Europe, you may get a cheek kissed (how this is expressed is very varied)
    • can be a difference of what is important to that person

Character Building

  • Determine which love language your character uses. This helps guide their actions throughout the novel.
  • A loner character might have their language: being with people (love-starved)
  • Age, how they are raised, their culture --> dialects (but their love language is the same)
  • Love language doesn't change as you grow
  • Love languages are sometimes assymetric (how you give love vs. how you want to receive it)
    • for writing, we can simplify this
  • A character who is stuck in a situation not of his own making, had to leave behind a lot of what he wants; he is very vulnerable to receiving gifts and he makes wrong choices because physical gifts replace what he was looking for (words of affirmation).
  • People could use their knowledge of a person's love language to love bomb them and manipulate them
    • core of gaslighting, manipulating the other half of a relationship to see your way (making them doubt themselves and lose their self-esteem)
    • You can use the knowledge of love languages to destroy people
    • cults prey upon that too, finding people who are insecure (led by someone who is a charismatic person); if someone is thinking of leaving the compound, everyone will go and give that person a hug.
    • toxic friendships do a similar kind of thing (e.g., the really popular girl and the nerdy girl who follows her around and does her homework) --> the plot of Wicked

Relationship Building

  • When you see love successfully communicated between two people, things go well
  • Third How to Train your Dragon movie
    • words of affirmation (feeding off of shared communication between the two of them)
    • similar love languages being communicated --> positive result
  • When love languages are not successfully communicated, we can feel the tension
    • The Break-up (rent controlled apartment)
    • She wants Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service
    • He wants Quality Time
    • They aren't getting what they want from the other person and so they get into fights
  • Words of Affirmation
    • Using words to shore up the people you care about
    • Harry Potter
    • Hermione uses words to elevate Harry
  • Words of Negativity
    • Harry Potter
    • Snape purposely uses negative words to tear apart little children (they know what people are looking for and they twist this to get what they want); a lot of this is from the POV of your main character.
    • even playing the bad cop, Snape really enjoys this
    • the kids have greater respect for McGonnegal and Dumbledore and so they are more impacted by their words
  • Quality TIme
    • typically boring to read and boring to watch (this is where you have montages)
    • a good way to show this is when characters talk about quality time
    • e.g., The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
    • if characters care about each other, you should show them working towards it
  • Lack of Quality Time
    • e.g., The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
    • Kay: I want you back, Leon. Present. In your life. With me....
    • This is what drives a relationship apart. Leon is willing to spend quality time with a patient but can't make that commitment in his relationship with Kay
  • Gift Giving
    • Gift giving can be used to identify or deepen the relationship.
    • Iron Man - Tony Stark sees the gift that Pepper has given him, his old heart arc reactor, boxed and with a label
    • This is Pepper saying that she cares about Tony, a positive step in their relationship, even though this isn't his primary love language.
  • Gift giving gone wrong
    • Eventually they become a couple and Tony has learned that gift giving is Pepper's love language. But there are still some things going wrong.
    • Tony gives Pepper strawberries that she is allergic to.
    • the love you're getting the more unhappy you are with a relationship
  • Acts of Service
    • can be powerful but not always happy
    • Hunger Games
    • Katniss volunteers as tribute in her sister's place
    • Katniss also spends time hunting for her family
  • Acts of disservice
    • Hunger Games
    • Peta says he loves Katniss (as an act of service), but Katniss misinterprets this as him being malicious and getting her angry. Someone has to step in and corrects her misinterpretation.
    • Even if people speak the same language, they may not be on the same page.
  • Physical touch
    • kicks, bedroom activities and the like with couples, but also other
    • The Hug
    • The characters are siblings. Arthur is giving Morgana a hug to comfort her after she was kidnapped. This is something Arthur would like but not getting; but the kidnapping that MOrgana is recovering from is actually fake. She is presenting herself as weak to gain his trust so she can dismantle the kingdom from inside. So physical touch is used for positive and negative connotations
  • Physical discomfort
    • a light punch in the arm (to Merlin) meant to encourage; a second punch is meant to punish
    • the disconnect over physical touch is just a comedic misunderstanding between friends

Putting things together

  • If you know a character's love language, you know how they act and how they want others to act and how to hurt them.
  • Love language: how they communicate with everyone else
  • Love Language = one communication theory, applicable across all relationships, but this is just a character building template
  • When you are attributing a character to a template/personality type, this is the understanding of what the character is looking for or having a hard time with.
  • Someone who is an introvert would likely hang out with other introverts, not with an extrovert all the time
  • Cancer compatibility with Gemini or Scorpio -- astrology
  • Standard personality tropes and boxes with each sign of the zodiac
  • Knowing how your character communicates with people--> use this to bring consistency in your novel, see how others will interact with them.
  • Don't switch templates; they won't always mesh.
  • Motivation:
    • Internal aspects; Love language is more about communication and how characters interact with other people
    • if writing a romance, what a character is feeling will be linked to the plot
  • Katniss's internal dream is coming to grasp she has feelings for Peta and they end up in an actual relationship. Love language is the mechanics of the plot.
  • What a character wants/needs in the dimension of love.
  • External desires vs. internal desires
    • external desire might be find the father and have a relationship
    • love language might be words of affirmation
    • you have a child looking for something from their father, but it might be something else
    • this is a template for how characters will interact with people, not the story you want to tell in the novel
  • How do you know what a person's love language is?
    • internally: what has made you happy
    • look at what makes you upset (might be a mismatch)
    • Occam's razor
    • trial and error (if you meet something and they do something off color, you don't write them off; but if the other person is really in tune with the response); a manipulative person would try things until they hit something that elicits the right response
    • one character that reads the physical reactions, the cues, of a person
    • or they may be good at picking up social cues
    • psychological profiling
    • what kind of love language does that person exhibit? E.g., acts of service--a woman didn't realize how much her father loved her (he never said he loved her, but he was always at her house fixing things)
    • you can use body reactions and facial reactions to what they don't like
  • If someone uses one love language, it might not be their love language (but because they know that is what the other person is looking for)
  • Relationship conflicts arise due to not speaking through proper love languages, even though core care/love of the other is strong
  • You can perform any love language; what is most meaningful for you is what is important.
  • E.g., guy would bring the girl presents; she would get angry because he could have bought groceries to make dinner. She viewed gift giving as being irresponsible where he viewed them as an act of love.
  • The emotion thesaurus is useful to pick up on actions of the other; what actions would be appropriate for certain emotions.
    • you can escalate from X to Y or de-escalate from X to Z
    • shows action words of a person who is experiencing an emotion