Writing and the Five Love Languages: Gift-Giving

by - June 08, 2020

Hello everyone! We have reached the END of this series (who else can't believe how quickly five months went by? They were five months of utter insanity, but HEY, they're done now, thank God). And today it's time for the fifth and final love language: the art of GIFT-GIVING!

I feel like this is something that doesn't show up often enough in fiction, so finding examples of someone whose primary love language is the giving of gifts is kind of a difficult feat. I want to consider two different kinds of gifts: the big, massive gift; and the smaller, more down-to-earth, but constant kind of gift.

First: the BIG GIFT. The sort of thing that ends up being a MacGuffin or a story-driving device or something absolutely crucial. The first to come to mind is the Mockingjay pin of The Hunger Games. Another might be the mithril coat that Thorin gives to Bilbo in The Hobbit--remember that thought, because I'll be coming back to it. In The Fault in our Stars, August and Hazel give each other the mutual gift of a favorite book--and August gives Hazel his Make-A-Wish trip to fulfill one of her greatest dreams.

A quick side trail here would be the idea of a gift given by the villain, something sinister BUT that hides its sinister-ness (a word?) behind a guise of something innocent. Jennifer Nielsen employs this masterfully in The Deceiver's Heart, where the main villain, Lord Endrick, gives the main girl, Kestra, a necklace as a gift--seemingly harmless, but every time she tries to take it off, it causes her excruciating pain and ends up becoming a major part of the plot. Every gift that Madoc gives Jude in The Cruel Prince helps her survive in a harsh world--and yet it's all a reminder that he is not her true father, but an abusive man who hurt her and her sisters. In the Caraval series, every bit of help that one buys must be paid for in the most unconventional way--by sleeping for days, giving up a year of life, or giving up something beloved. (Faerie bargains, my dudes. One of my most favorite things).

We could probably go on this way for a very long time, but I think you get the idea. There are a LOT of stories that are set into motion or aided by the gift of something very valuable, very sacrificial, or very rare. This is truly a way to show the love between two people: we talked about sacrificing one's life last week as an act of service, but I think the gift of one's life--not dying for someone, but living for them--would also fall under this category.

Now I want to deal with the second category of gift giving, the one my friend Nicki Chapelway described as a "magpie" instinct--the kind of gift giving where someone sees something shiny and just immediately wants to GIVE IT to someone. This is something that I feel doesn't show up enough in literature, and we need to remedy that.

Going back to my comments on Thorin: I would say he's the first example to come to mind of a "gift giver", as well as the entire Hobbit culture in Lord of the Rings. Honestly, I think Tolkien himself was probably a gift giver, with the amount of that which happens in the series. Throin gives away gold and gems, gives people titles, and even offers one-fourteenth of the treasure in the Lonely Mountain to each quester (before, of course, the gold goes to his head). The Hobbits give each other presents on their own birthdays. We have so many examples of this love language in Tolkien--it's a shame more stories don't emulate this.

As I edit Holding Up the Sky, I'm working on incorporating the love language of gift giving more. The character who could likely be described as the true protagonist of the story, Daverby, is not a toucher, not smooth with affirmation, not good at telling anyone how he feels or doing anything nice for them--but he loves his girlfriend, Em, and wants to do things for her that she will like. His solution? He gives her things. Worthless things--at one point, he picks a weed off the road and puts it in her hair. He gives her his coat when she's cold. He gives her a home, safety, provides for her, and puts her needs above his own countless times. Dave's way of proving his love? Through little tiny gifts. And the reason that this matters is that when he buys her flowers, he pays for it with his own currency. Dave is a thief. He could steal all the money he wants to pay for this stuff--he could even steal the gifts themselves. But instead, he pays out of his pocket.

Daverby let go of her hand suddenly and ducked down on the path to pluck a flower that happened to be growing there. Its yellow blossom was larger than Emery might have expected from a common weed. Bowing low, he extended his hand and proffered it to her. “For the lady.”
She wrinkled her nose. “A weed.”
“Only the finest for you, baby.” He quirked his eyebrow.
Butterflies whirled through her stomach, but she kept her face hard. “You’re giving me a flower that you found in the middle of the road.”
He reached for her, and she offered no resistance as he tucked it behind her ear, stroking her hair back too. “The road doesn’t deserve to be adorned with a flower so beautiful. Only the most lovely woman alive deserves that.”

Just a random little snippet of how I'm incorporating that--and a free snippet for anybody who's curious about HUtS mwahahahaaaaa

I love this love language--it fascinates me to no end and I hope you enjoyed reading this about it! 

And now here we are, at the end of this series. It's been a blast and I'm actually really sad to see it end, but I'm excited to tell you about what's to come on the blog in terms of writing advice! Looking ahead at the months to come, I'll be talking about MBTI, my writing process, tropes I hate, and some personal experiences of mine that anyone could incorporate into fiction. I'm really excited to share this stuff with you guys!

Which of the love languages did you like reading about the most in this series? Do you have any characters who are gift givers? Are you going to use this love language more now? Chat with me in the comments!

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  1. Ah gift giving. AKA your love language. Aka Faith yelling at Brooke to let her send smol things to her all the time >:)

    I love this post, boo. I feel like this is a very underrated love language. It needs more attention. Wonderful post. I look forward to the MBTI ones, muhahahah. >:)

    stay amazing
    ~ brooke

  2. Oh, I loved this! I'm NOT a gift giver in any way. I'm terrible at it because I don't really like getting gifts in general. But, I know so many people that feel loved that way, so I IN MY LIFE need to use this more often. But, in writing too! Thanks!

    I loved this series, and are you going to start over? Because, I think I need you to. Lol

    My favorite was the acts of service. That just really resonated with me. I do have ONE character who's a gift giver. But, again. That's JUST ONE! Lol I for sure will be using this more often.

  3. Okay, but this was so, so fascinating, because gift giving/receiving just...isn't my thing. It's precious, and so very nice, but it's not the way to my heart. And I am TERRIBLE gift giver. I fail so hard at thinking up thoughtful gifts for people. I just fail at gifts in every direction. And, as a result, I never really think about it much for my characters??? THIS HAS OPENED MY EYES.

    I loooOOOOOooooved your Middle-earth examples. YOU ARE SO RIGHT. Gifts are such a huge, powerful part of those stories. And I adore the image of some people being little magpies and loving to give shiny things to friends. THAT'S SO CUTE.


    Ahem. Anyways. There's so much goodness here! I love the different FORMS of gifts you brought up. From good, to bad, to small, to large, to something like giving one's LIFE. Such wonderful thoughts! It's definitely making me think about my own stories and characters and fun ways to incorporate these things.

    ALL these posts have done this! They've opened my eyes to sooooo many things, and I think I need to go back and reread them over and over again to soak up all the delicious knowledge. THESE WERE JUST BRILLIANT. UTTERLY BRILLIANT. I am going to miss these posts. But you say you have MBTI posts and things coming??? UM. YES PLEASE. I NEEDS IT.

    Thank you for taking the time to share all these! If I haven't made it clear at this point: I LOVED THEMMMMMMM!!!!

  4. Oh my goodness! I was so excited to see this post in my feed! But now I'm sad because it's the last one...oh well, I'm looking forward to your other writing advice posts, too. :)

    I think my favorite love language post of yours was the one on acts of service (even though it's not my love language), with this one as a close second (even though it's not my love language either!).

    Gift giving is so not my love language--while I sometimes enjoy finding gifts for my friends, it's usually a random process where I find a good present either 10 months before or 5 days before the birthday/holiday, with no in between! And within my own family, I can never think of anything to get anyone...but it's fun to see it in books, for sure!

    Tolkien I think actually does a good job of incorporating ALL of the love languages into his books (although maybe physical touch not quite as much)--I can think of instances of all of them, and they're all very well done imo. Love that dude. XD

    Also THAT SNIPPET I am in love.

  5. Okay but YES to more of those smaller gift-giving moments! My current MC’s love language is actually gift-giving and now I have the inspiration to make her give allllllll the things. That love interest has no idea what’s coming. XD XD Awesome post, Faith - though I’m sad that this is the last one. How has it already been five posts????

  6. aw love this post! gift-giving is actually my love language, so i really enjoyed this post. :)

    love the lotr + hunger games examples! <3 (also the cruel prince example! currently halfway through "the cruel prince", and torn between despising all the characters + loving the story, lol)


  8. I can't believe this is the last post!! This series has gone by so fast. (For me, at least. xD) And as usual this one was great!

    I do have to agree that gift-giving is something you don't see much, at least not past the typical flowers-and-chocolate thing. Hehe. And I love how you described why your character give gifts to show his love. It made me think of how (while CERTAINLY not restricted to this kind of character) gift-giving could potentially be used for a shy or self-conscious character; someone who doesn't know how or is too unsure to show love from themselves directly, so they rely on using something outside of themselves to do it for them. *shrug* Just my mind chasing down an idea. xD

    Also that snippet was ADORABLE and I need more of this couple please and thank you.

    I never realized how much gift-giving Tolkien shows in his books! That's really interesting to think that he could have been a gift-giver because of that. I wonder how many writers unintentionally give their characters their own love language. Hmm.

    ANYWAY this was a fantastic post, Faith! And I can't wait to see all your upcoming ones! :D


  9. I am the absolute WORST at gift giving. Man, it's bad. But I think it is so sweet and your examples are brilliant! I'm excited to read more with Daverby. ;D

    This series has been fantastic and I'm so pumped for the ones that you mentioned you are going to do!


    The magpie is strong with this one XD

  11. I loved this series! I think I get the magpie instinct a lot. XD


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