I’m putting together a character bible for a short shifter story I want to submit to an open call at Dreamspinner Press. That in and of itself is not unusual. I usually end up doing an unholy amount of planning for short stories that I may not even touch for novel length works, just because if I don’t know where I’m going I have almost no way of getting the story done under word count. (In this case, it tops out at 18,000 words, which isn’t actually that constraining, but still makes me sweat.) I’m the worst at trying to write short stories, though I’m working on it.
(Writing short stories is a skill, my friend. Don’t let anyone make fun of the short story. They’re so much harder to write than books.)
Anyway, I decided to use a sheet of questions for my character bible that isn’t the typical questions I use (I have about 50 that I’ve compiled myself over the last few years.) I figured, what the hell. A short story would be the perfect time to try out these new questions.
Well, here’s one of the questions:
How does your couple express love for each other? (Examples: Acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, or receiving gifts?)
I laughed and laughed. These are from the book The Five Love Languages, which, a good while ago, I had a therapist tell my husband and I to look into. We’re two of those people who love each other more than anything, but don’t necessarily communicate the best, which leads to misunderstandings that don’t need to happen. I’d never considered breaking down the love needs of my characters in quite that way. There is a list of about twenty questions in the book I’m talking about that helps you determine what you need to be happy in love. Acts of service are things like: your partner washes your car or takes out the trash. That’s what I scored highest on. Mow the lawn for me? You’ve got the inroads to my heart. My husband scored highest on physical touch and words of affirmation. We’re polar opposites in so many ways, yet still we work. He likes it when I cuddle him (which I like too!) and tell him how wonderful he is. In my own life I realized how easy it is to get away from doing simple things like that when there are a million and one other things that need to happen in a day.
It’s easy to avoid things like HOW a character loves when I’m writing because they’re all in the honeymoon stage. The ooey gooey goo goo eyes, I LOVE YOU, stage, but it’s good to remember in real life, and just all around for character development, that over time people’s true temperaments are going to be slightly different than that head over heels stage. That’s not good or bad or any other thing, it just is. And sometimes we have to take the time to get to know our lovers all over again after a year or so if we want to keep them happy. We have to pay attention. We have to take an interest in them.
I know that sounds stupid, you have to take an interest in someone you see every day, but it’s easy to start taking someone for granted. My goal is to love the people in my life in such a way that they never feel like they’re extras. I want everyone, from my lover to my best friend, to feel like they matter. That’s not always easy because there is only so much time in a day, but if you know what those people need from you most—be it cuddles and touches or for you to change the oil in their car—it makes each relationship easier to maintain.
And, damn it, a hot sweaty man who has just re-roofed my house is where it’s at.
You can pre-order my book The Shape of Honey! It’s a m/m werewolf romance!