Show Some Love – Thursday’s Children

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Given it’s Valentine’s Day, it’s only fitting this week’s inspiration is about love. As a writer of epic fantasy I enjoy writing about strange magical worlds, conflict, and intrigue – but every so often my characters fall in love. And these scenes terrify me.

So where does a love-phobic writer go for inspiration?

For me – it’s to the writer’s first rule:

Show don’t tell.

Forget the candy hearts, flowers, or balloons. Sure they’re nice, and always appreciated; but if you want to get something meaningful for the object of your affection – make it something that shows you get them. Consider this very unusual example from my own life:

On our second wedding anniversary, my husband and I had very little money. We had just moved to London (from NZ with a terrible exchange rate), and most of our meagre savings had gone on flights and setting up a flat. At that point, I was working as a temp in a very low paid office job (the first job I could find two days off the plane) to support us while my husband looked for a proper job. We had student loans to service and very little money for anything other than the basic necessities.

We couldn’t afford to go out for our anniversary, but when I came home from work (still adjusting to the reality that was the London Underground) – I found some tea light candles on the kitchen table and my husband (who looked like the cat who got the cream) holding out a present wrapped up in newspaper. To be honest my heart sank a little (the budget was never far from my mind), – but appreciating the gesture, I made a big fuss while I pulled off the paper.

And what, you might wonder was inside that gift that made such an impact on me?

Four blue and white egyptian cotton tea towels.

Yes, you read that right. Tea towels. Not impressed? Well I was.

You see he knew I was struggling coping with a grey UK winter living in a tiny flat decorated out of our backpacks. Although this was a practical gift (we needed to buy tea towels – no dishwasher in that flat) he’d chosen to spend a few extra quid to buy me some that were really beautiful. A little splash of luxury I would use every day in our little grey box – and beyond when we found our feet.

And because he’d discovered it was our cotton anniversary.

It may not have made anyone else’s list of a great ideas for an anniversary present – but I’ll never forget it. Because he knew it mattered to me.

So when my characters force me to capture their love stories I look for things or actions that matter to the character. Things that show the other person is paying attention. Has a backpack strap become frayed? Have they lost something important to them? Is there an important date that is going unmarked? Are they missing something from home? Or struggling to cope with a new situation? What small thing can the other do that says I see you and I want to make it better. To me that’s showing love.

There is a time for sweet nothings – although you probably won’t find much of those in my writing – but I prefer seeing love in action. To me that’s inspiring.

How about you?

If you want to join in and share the things that inspire you, or just check out what the other Thursday’s Children are inspired by click here for the Linky Tools list.

(NB. Just in case you don’t know – tea towels are the things you use to dry your dishes).

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30 thoughts on “Show Some Love – Thursday’s Children

  1. The best gift my hubby gave me eons ago was this silly little, cheap, ceramic cow that lays on the edge of a shelf with two legs hanging over. I had seen it and thought it was cute in an odd sort of way but didn’t get it. For him to remember that and go back on his own initiative and get it? Wow. To this day it still lays on the shelf by the kitchen sink. It’s a little worse for wear, has a few chips, and I had to glue it back together once — maybe it’s a reflection of our life together. A little banged up here and there, but still hanging out on the shelf. 🙂 Great post. And great tips for the love angle. I have to deal with that . . .

  2. Once, my husband and I were in a bookstore and we’d wandered off – me to the fantasy section and him to the bargain book section. All of a sudden he was standing next to me and thrusting a book about serial killers into my hands. Then this happened:

    Him: Honey, look what I found!
    Me: No way!
    Him: I know! It’s perfect for you!
    Me: Thank you!

    I wish you could have seen the looks on the faces of the people around us. And it was perfect for me. He knew that at the time, I was writing a book that involved a serial killer. It was so sweet – that guy just gets me. 🙂

  3. Great story! Funny how love (and gifts) can have a very different meaning depending on the context.

    My favourite way to show love in stories without cheesiness is when characters show each other knew things. Kind of like the flying carpet scene in Aladdin. So for me, the line “C’mon. I wanna show you something.” = “I like you. Lemme prove it…”

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. I totally get the towels–my husband and I are the same way. And I think the “showing” of love in a story makes it concrete, more believable, which is tied in with another rule–give your characters depth. Great post!

  5. So sweet! And so true! Sometimes my hubs shows me love by doing things like cleaning my car, or refilling the windshield washer fluid. Things I HATE to do. Means way more than a bouquet of flowers-not that I don’t like flowers too…

    1. Yes I was trying not to bash the flowers and chocolate thing – they make the world a better place… (totally happy to accept ANY). But I totally agree about someone doing something for you because they know you don’t like to.

  6. I love this! As someone who writes love stories, I’ve noticed a lot of people see a romance novel and assume it’s solely about making out and creating the beast with two spines. In reality, there’s a lot of setup that has to happen before either of those things occur- at least, if you want the story to really grab people. Those little gestures you talk about are a crucial part of the plot. Great post!

    1. Thanks Laura – I agree with you, and have always been fascinated by what draws a couple together in the first place. I have huge respect for people write love stories – it’s a real gift!

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