Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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May 3, 2017

Eight Easy Ways for Your Characters to Show Love

"I love you" are pretty powerful words to say—and to hear. But there are usually a lot of words before your characters hear those words, and maybe even more words before they believe them. There are plenty of things our characters can do, actions they can take, to build the emotional level for their love interest to really hear and accept those words and feelings. The cool thing is, you can think of more by thinking about how—and why—you've fallen in love, because every one of these suggestions "works" in real life, too. That's why your readers will connect with them, and why they will fall in love with your characters.

  1. Random surprises improve mood and relationship satisfaction. The surprises don't have to be costly or labor-intensive. Let me give you a real-life example. When I started having to travel for my job, I bought special "cute" post-it notes. One had a dotted line down the middle with "good gnus" (they had halos) on the left and "bad gnus" (they had horns and pitch forks) on the right. The title was "Good gnus and Bad gnus." Under the good news side I wrote "I love you" and under the bad news I wrote "I'm not here." I stuck it on the mirror my husband used every morning to shave. He didn't usually call the first couple of days I was away, but he called that night to say, "Somebody put a sappy note on my mirror." I asked him how he liked it. "I had to pull it off so I could shave." Yes, a real romantic. In the future I put notes in his underwear drawer, in the freezer, tucked inside a book he was reading, just to bug him. Years later, he'd asked me to look for something important in his filing cabinet, and in an unlabeled folder was every single note I'd written him.
  2. Expressing concern for someone's safety promotes solid friendships and encourages healthy behavior. It also boosts self esteem and fights depression. One more from-Fae's-life example. My husband's got a thing for clean, well-maintained cars. I found this out soon after we got married. He came into the house after he'd washed his car and told me I needed to wash my car. I told him it was fine. After a few, okay more than a few, heated exchanges he stamped outside saying it was dangerous to drive with a windshield so dirty (it wasn't that bad), and he washed my car. When I complained that I needed to remember to stop and get gasoline or I may not make it to work the next morning, I'd get in the car and the tank (that I'd forgotten about) was full. [I hear you sighing ahhhh, but trust me, he is not a romantic.]
  3. Remember the details of something important to the other character. Since we only remember seventeen to twenty-five percent of what we hear, paying attention to the details of what our partner is concerned about is important. Dialogue can be initiated, whether it is to commiserate or problem solve. But there can be no back and forth if your character doesn't know the important details. Questions can pull out other, perhaps secret, facts or emotions or backstory to make this suggestion do double-duty for your writing. The act of listening is powerful. In real life and for our characters.
  4. Really caring about your day. Now this may sound mundane. Of course you're going to show your characters caring about what happened to each other. But did you know that this particular type of show-of-caring is ninety-three percent non-verbal communication? This is not the lip-service, "Oh, honey, that's too bad." This is the "knowing look," however you've detailed that look for your character, the light touch on the arm, or the long, silent bear hug. It's the stretch out on the sofa and put your feet in my lap foot massage. Or the slow walk to the wine storage and pouring a glass of their favorite before any verbal response. It's exactly what you would want someone who loves you to do for you.
  5. Hand-written love letters. This is different from my post-it notes above. This is a full out, (maybe) carefully constructed letter proclaiming an undying love. It lists the hows and why of falling in love. It professes forever and that HEA. Maybe it was written but never intended to be discovered and read, and that discovery can make it a turning point in your story. It could be on the back or inside of a purchased greeting card. Its impact can be profound when the character who writes it has not verbally professed love before this point, and probably hasn't physically shown such softness to the other character. 
  6. Totally relaxing physical affection increases trust and stronger bonds. Yes, this one has big immediate payoffs for both characters. Hand holding for the first time, particularly if the walking is a little slippery, indicates a caring desire to protect. Rubbing the back of the neck requires trust and tenderness. From a hand or foot massage, to massaging the shoulders and back… well, you get the idea. Physical interaction that takes the everyday tension down to a relaxed sigh is the goal here.
  7. Making your character feel included because they are important. Remember the first time you met the parents? It went well if your beloved included you in the conversation. Better if there was physical contact between the two of you, either seen or unseen by the others in the room. We've all been in situations where we went somewhere and wondered why we needed to be there because no one made an effort to interact with us. To someone who loves you, you are the center of the event and, even if your interaction is mainly with the one who brought you, you'll have a positive experience. How do you make someone feel included? You introduce them to the others, show them the important places: the restroom, the exit to the patio, the bar, the food, the people they'd most likely get along with. And you don't abandon them afterwards. Hovering isn't necessary, but visible checks are mandatory as are occasional personal check-ins to assure their well-being. If one character  is the type of person who will slink to a forgotten corner, the other character will stay with them and move about the room as their escort.
  8. Checking in to be certain of the other's well-being, mental health and status. Friends do this; lover's should, too. It begins as a courtesy, but when you love someone, you care about how they are doing. Communicating with them on a regular basis shows that love and also deepens the connection between two people. In historical fiction, it can be accomplished by a daily ride to the other person's home. In a contemporary, a text works, but other ways to check-in are needed to show a commitment to the relationship. A phone call or a quick meeting, even a surprise visit, all show a desire to be involved in the well-being of the other person. 

What other ways do your characters show their love?


Fae RowenFae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak.   Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present.  As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.

Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.

A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.

When she’s not hanging out at Writers in the Storm, you can visit Fae at http://faerowen.com  or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen.


37 comments on “Eight Easy Ways for Your Characters to Show Love”

  1. Great tips. Men are wired differently, and they show their love in a more protective way. Another way to show love is to show that they actually listen. One "guy-romantic" thing my husband did was give me a Swiss Army Knife for my birthday. What's romantic about that, you ask? Well, I was watching MacGyver and he was reading on the couch behind me. I muttered, "Why don't I have one of those" to the TV set. He never said a word, but bought me the knife for my birthday. Another time, after saying, "My next husband will take me dancing," I got ballroom dancing lessons for my birthday--and he came along. Poor guy has no sense of rhythm, but he was game to give it a try.

    1. We're all saying, "Ahhh..." He sounds like a keeper! Thanks for sharing your love with us, Terry.

    2. Definitely a keeper, Terry! Wow. If guys only knew how easy it is to make us happy...glad yours is one who figured it out.

  2. My husband sent me a dozen red roses when we were both on active duty in the army. He was on temporary duty in Germany and I was on temporary duty at Fort Chaffee, AR. It was funny in a way he wrote a letter and in the letter, this was in 1975 so no email, cell phones, Skype, Facetime, he asked how I liked the flowers. I called him long distance every Friday evening from a pay phone inserting quarters and more quarters. I asked him, did you send me flowers? He said yes, I said I didn't get them. I did get the roses finally along with a second dozen. One time in Hawaii I got up on my birthday, wandered out into the living/dining area of the house. He'd already left for work, he was still in the army, on the table was an anniversary card and a birthday card with a little teddy bear holding a heart that said I love you. That made my day. He tried to shrug it off saying well you know the bear was left over from Valentine's Day. I told doesn't matter I love it.
    He's been gone 5 years. I miss walking up to him for a hug and asking for a kiss and he goes what for, teasing. Or better yet, he always peeled and cut up the potatoes when I made mashed potatoes or potato salad, I hate peeling potatoes and never fix them, now. Little things that 40 years of marriage that I can keep as a memory.

  3. Oh, C.K., I'm so sorry for your loss. There are not so many of us who have been so lucky to fine a life-long love. I bet you have many more wonderful memories that still make you feel so loved.

  4. One of the most romantic things my hubs ever did was to come home from filling his gas tank and bringing me a Snickers bar. My favorite, and completely out of the blue. He's an engineer through and through, with all that goes along with it, but I'll keep him!

    And since I"m making the switch to writing romance, I'm keeping this, too. Thanks!

    1. Oh, Jennifer! I almost divorced my husband over the last snack-size Snickers on a month-long trip to China. He'd eaten more than his "fair share." But we were in a yurt in Mongolia (got there on a camel!), and by the time we got home, I'd long-sense changed my mind! Thanks for sharing.

      1. Fae, now I have to hate you; I'm seething with jealousy over your Mongolia trip. And just when I was feeling such a kinship over the need to be reminded of practical things such as time-sensitive appointments and the recognizing of the romance of a full gas tank. Sigh. It was going to be a beautiful friendship.

        1. Trust me, Jeanne, it was not a romantic trip at all. Riding a camel for miles is HIGHLY over-rated. Living in a yurt with a charcoal burner as your only heat source is chilling. Meals of boiled sheep hip bone are not appetizing, especially when the bugs are pulled out with someone's fingers, and the fat floating on top of you bowl is knuckle deep.

          But, the trip was my idea; I "made" him go. He did threaten to burn his passport in the middle of the trip--in front of a couple of automatic-gun-toting army teens! Yes, I "paid" for that trip.

  5. Fae, thanks for a great post! I especially needed to hear about the nonverbal communication. Such an important part of our stories, and one that is sometimes neglected.

    1. Thanks, James. I figure you've got this subject down since my good friend still keeps you around!

  6. Wonderful reminders for both fiction and real life. Like Jennifer, my husband is also an engineer but I think part of what has kept us together for 42 years is being able to share a laugh together.

    1. You are so right, Carrie! Whenever I hear someone's list of what they are looking for in a potential mate, "makes me laugh" or "can laugh with me" is in the top ten. And doesn't laughter make everything better?

  7. What a wonderfully thoughtful blog. It ;left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. I have saved and filed this for future reference ... there are so many well thought out ideas that we can use as writers. Thank you.

  8. Warm and fuzzy is good, Shirley. Thank you! I'm glad you'll be able to use this.

  9. This is a great list! I have a certain friend who has a knack of remember minor things I told him off-handedly years ago, and it always makes me feel so special when he slips into conversation one of these things that I'd nearly forgotten myself.

    1. Thanks, A.S. Isn't it wonderful to know someone really listens to you? And files away those little things that are important to you. I have a few small gifts around the house that make me smile—things that were exactly right, given at the right time because a friend had listened long before.

      1. It is the best feeling! I might have to make a character in my story do that...

        1. Yes! Yes, A.S! All four of my books have at least one "pithy" quote supplied by Mr. Romance. No one will swoon over any of them. Now the things I wanted to hear--those are the "good" parts of my books!

  10. How have I stayed married to this guy for over 47 years? LOL!! Great post, Fae! Sometimes it's just the little things for sure.

    1. Oh, Barb, I think it's that first car. And I've never heard you utter one bad word about him, so he's doing something right. Yep, consistent little things mean so much more than one grand gesture.

  11. These are all beautiful suggestions. Have you ever heard of the 'Languages of Love'? Before we got married my pastor gave my husband and I the book to read (which we didn't) but I've since come across it in other guises and it's surprisingly insightful. There's Touch, Talk, Time, Tasks, Tokens and I think another one that I can't remember.

  12. I bought The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, when it first came out. I second your recommendation, littlemissw. It's a fast read with lots of "takeaway." Thanks for referring us to it! (It sounds like you didn't need to read the book.)

  13. Simple but effective. I was happy I did some of these things in my novel. Now if I could just find in real life lol. good post

  14. Thanks, Barbara. I was lucky; I started early. I used to push unsigned cryptic notes through the holes in my junior high's lockers. The poor boys that were in my cross-hairs would look around when the paper feel out and ask, "Do you know who put this in my locker?" to every around them. Ha! I never got caught. I heard some of them talking about the notes in high school, where I definitely kept my mouth shut!

  15. I love all the little gestures that display affection. My husband shows affection by bringing me my morning coffee in bed. That is SO sweet your husband saved your little notes. 🙂 He's a closet romantic. haha

  16. It took me a long time to get a chance to read this, but I'm glad I saved it until I could. I made notes of your blog for my WIP, which is in the semi-final editing stages, and I can see places where it will really make the blooming romance stronger. I think I'll also have to work on some of those in my personal life - 40 years of marriage tends to lead to taking for granted and I don't want to go down that road. Thanks!

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