Mar 31, 2010

Monkeys Need Love Too

I was thinking about emotions and how we reveal them in characters. Now I'm not a big romance novel lover, but I always assumed there would be lots of 'oh darling, I love you!' as the big climatic (he he - pun) ending.

In a recent post I talked about 'who-ness', the element that individualises your character from the others, you can see that post by visiting: James Baldwin and Character Who-ness, but today I'm thinking specifically about how characters express love.

LOVE. It's one of the big novel themes; finding love, losing love, loving the one you're with, love can heal all wounds, love is where you find it... etc and etc. Then of course there's romantic love, family love, friendship love and the love of a pet.

Love is a fundamental need. Harlow is well known for his experiments on baby monkeys, raising them in isolation chambers without a mother. Some of the babies were given terry cloths as a substitute and during times of fear those monkeys would cling to and hide behind the terry cloth, they would also hug it for support. Overall it was found that monkeys raised with a mother lived longer than those without. Monkeys need love too.

So all characters are in someway affected by love in their lifetime, even if it's from a lack of love, but how do you express that?

A good friend of mine was telling me that her father doesn't say things like 'I love you', he's just not comfortable with those emotions. What he does instead is always check if her car is running okay when he sees her, or when they talk on the phone he asks about her car. That's his way of saying 'I love you'.

My mother shows her granddaughters love by buying them loads of toys, she also supplies and endless amount of junk food and ice-cream follows every meal, in fact ice-cream usually follows ice-cream. This is her love.

Sometimes love can be revealed in unwanted ways, perhaps a teen character is being controlled by a mother and not allowed to socialise the way other kids can. But if you look into the mother's background you might find that she was raped as a teen, which explains her fear of letting her teenage daughter out at night. Now you have emotions that move the narrative forward.

So really think about your characters, can you think of any ways they express 'I love you' without words? Baking? Cleaning? Beating? (it doesn't have to be positive to be truthful). Share some of the odd ways they show love with us :-)


  1. What a great post - and you're right, there's more than just saying it to show love. My heroine shows love in a very unusal way (though I can't say how). Point is, you're absolutely right.

  2. You are now officially listed on the blogroll of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Don't worry too much amount the timing--we kind of put this thing together and the last minute and I've been absolutely thrilled with the response. Maybe you can let folks know that you're doing this and if you don't mind old Uncle Sam on your blog you can put up the logo to show that you are a participant.
    Oh and I am now following your blog. I sure if drop in on some of the other participants, say hello, and maybe join their blogs they will do the same for you.
    Good luck and have fun.

  3. Actions are a great way to show love between characters.

    How about if the character supports the other character's goal? Even to the extent that he/she risks their life. That's what happens in my WIP.

    Great post!

  4. Jaydee - you have me most intrigued!

    Arlee bird - Thanks looking forward to the challenge! Link is up and I'm tweeting it too :-)

    Aubrie - heroic gestures are a brilliant way to show the depth of love!

  5. First of all, I must say, those pics are so cute and so sat at the same time. I went and hugged my dog.

    I believe this in life as well as in fiction: Love is not just three words you say, it's a verb. Love needs to be shown not said.

    In my WIP, my two main characters - although they are not in love...yet - do some kind things for one another. For example, one of the characters has a sick family member and the other's father is a doctor so she got the other MC a reference to one of the best specialists. I think little acts of kindness such as that express love.


  6. Ann - I agree (also about the monkey pics) that acts of kindness show love, I think they fill us with love too. :-)