Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thursday Review—The Five Love Languages

I know you're as excited as I am that it's the First Thursday and time for Lynn Blackburn to share her views on writing with us!

The Five Love Languages 
by Gary Chapman

I’m sure many of you are familiar with this book. An unscientific survey revealed that I may be the only person in the world who had not read it. (I base this on the random people who commented on it as I read—doctors, nurses, secretaries, teachers, friends—every one of them knew their love language, and in most cases, knew the love languages of their spouses and children. I felt so out of the loop.)

Just in case you haven’t read it, here are the Five Love Languages:

  • Physical Touch
  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
The premise is that we all speak one of these languages quite well. It’s how we best receive love, so it tends to be how we express love. But if we learn the love language of those around us—spouses, children, friends, parents—we can learn to speak their love language to them which can alleviate conflict and ease tension.

That’s lovely in real life. In real life, I avoid conflict the way I avoid lima beans and laundry.

But I write fiction and in fiction, conflict is good. Tension keeps people turning pages until they realize that their children are staring at them with hungry little faces because mommy’s been reading all afternoon and forgot to fix dinner so she grabs the phone, orders a pizza and pretends that was the plan all along.

So how does this book help? No, not you the parent or spouse—you, the writer.

Similar to the way you research personality types, professions and phobias, if you know the love languages of your characters, you can set them up for all sorts of conflict. And because these love languages are universal, you don’t have to say “her love language is quality time”. You show it throughout the book. Give your readers credit—they’ll pick up on it.

And then you have the poor girl fall in love with a man who travels all the time, or give her parents who are workaholics or send her off to a job in a city where she’s alone. The options for tension are endless, regardless of what type of fiction you write.

An understanding of The Five Love Languages will layer your scenes with authenticity because even though our characters aren’t real people, our readers are. And each one speaks one of these languages, whether they realize it or not.

So how about you? Do you know what your love language is? What about your character’s?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. On her blog Out of the Boat she writes about faith and family while her blog Perpetual Motion documents the joys and challenges of loving and rearing a child with special needs. A graduate of Clemson University, Lynn lives in South Carolina where she writes, reads, knits, takes care of two amazing children, one fabulous man and one spoiled rotten Boston Terrier.


  1. I hadn't thought about this book in regards to writing conflict. Thanks for the great tip, Lynn!

  2. When I create a character, I incorporate her love language so I can up the tension when her needs aren't being fulfilled.

    The more I write, the more I realize how much psychology plays a vital role in our novels.

  3. If only phobias counted as a love language. sigh. Great insight from this classic, Lynn. I'm filing this away in my "Tips from Incredibly Clueful Writer's" file for future reference.


  4. Love the application of Love Languages to our characters!

  5. This makes me want to read the book all over again (and I thought I was the last one on the planet to read it!) The idea of reading it with a new perspective to help in my writing on top of the personal application makes it all the more inviting.
    Great post.