What is the first thing you think of when you think of love? If you are anything like me, you imagine all “the kissing scenes” in The Princess Bride or an equivalent fairytale image. Maybe the knight and the princess ride off into the sunset. Or there is a rom-com ending where the kid runs through the airport to tell a girl that she is “the one.”
But love is bigger than that. Sure, there is definitely a place for sunsets and meeting at bridges (or, in the case of Before Sunrise, at a train station) at a set time. But there is also a place for love between friends, family members, and even strangers.
When I think about the love in my life, it is not limited to my wedding day. Here are some moments of love in my life that I remember the most fondly.
- My mother went to every single play I performed in. Multiple times. I didn’t have big role (try a flying monkey), but she still showed up and clapped.
- My father would push me in the swings in the playground in our backyard while I was growing up. He would always sing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins. (We eventually would dance to that song together on my wedding day.)
- My best friend texts me to see if I need her to come over when I am having a bad day. I don’t usually need the company, but it is nice to know that she is there.
- My husband brings home cranberry juice because it is my favorite. It is meaningful to know that he remembers the small details.
- My maid of honor spent hours practicing her toast for my wedding, even quietly reciting it to herself in the makeup chair. She normally enjoys being pampered more than anything, but she sacrificed her enjoyment to make sure it was juuust right.
- My business mentor sent me a card telling me that she couldn’t wait to see my bright future after I quit my job to start this business.
- My old coworkers decorated my cube as a surprise for my birthday.
- My dog rests her head on my lap while I am reading. She doesn’t speak, but her actions always loudly proclaim her affection for me.
- A stranger returned an expensive bag of mine to the metro staff and texted me that she gave it to them. This returned my faith in humanity, especially when the news can be so bleak.
I challenge you to write beyond the “running-through-the-streets-of-Portugal-to-propose” kind of love. Think about the other types of love in your characters’ lives. Does her best friend visit her in the hospital when she is sick? Does his mother slip puzzles under his pillow as a surprise when he gets ready for bed? Does a sibling send her a nice note when she is at camp? Does a stranger help him gather his dropped packages? Really think about different ways to portray love. It will not only enrich your story, but it will also develop your character. More importantly, it will make your reader (and even yourself) think about love in a more expansive way, and, as a result, demonstrate love in new ways.
Want to see this idea in action? Check out a delightful short film called “Bugaloo and Graham.” You can view it for free, and it takes only about fifteen minutes of your time. Tell me what you think in the comments below.