How to use the 8 Types of Love to build story resonance
Think you're not writing a love story? Well, I hate to break it to you, but you are. All stories are love stories.
Hear me out: Love is the emotion that guides every human. I'd argue that you can't be fully human and not experience love. Love is connection, and humans are social animals.
So even if you're not writing a romance--maybe romantic love doesn't even feature in your book--chances are you are at least writing about one of the 8 different types of love.
I discovered a lovely blog article here that describes them in detail, and argues that each of them has a "catalyst," or a part of the human being (mind, soul, hormones, etc.) that provokes the feeling of each type of love.
Let's take a look at each, and discover how we can use them to flesh out the emotional underpinnings of our manuscripts:
1. PHILIA - Affectionate Love, or Brotherly Love
This is the love between friends or some family members. It occurs when people share the same interests and values, and hold mutual respect for each other. The love catalyst is the mind. In other words, your mind tells you when you and a friend or family member are on the same page.
So how can you build Philia love in a manuscript? Create scenes in which your characters are having deep, meaningful conversations. Have them be open and honest, sharing their fears, dreams, etc. You can also build scenes in which they support each other through hard times.
2. PRAGMA - Enduring Love
This is the type of love between committed couples who have been in a relationship for many, many years. It's "mature" love that has developed over a long time. It requires commitment, dedication, and effort. The love catalyst is the subconscious...it's something that happens without the couple fully knowing it's happening.
You can build Pragma into a novel by showing couples who choose the relationship over their individual, immediate needs (if those things are at odds). Show scenes in which they fight but it doesn't rattle the foundation of their relationship. Conflict happens, but most conflicts won't break a couple in Pragma love.
3. STORGE - Familiar Love
Storge love is the kind of love that flows between parents and siblings and childhood friends. It's an easy, immediate, natural love, built upon connection and deep emotions. The love catalyst is memories, which awaken the feelings of this type of love.
Scenes that might build Storge in a manuscript could be scenes in which a parent does anything for their child, sacrificing their own wants/needs in the process. Or it could be a scene in which two best friends reminisce and/or build new memories together. Perhaps a character is quick to forgive the wrong-doings of another, simply because of their shared history and the high esteem they hold for that person.
4. EROS - Romantic Love
This is probably the first type of love that comes to most people's mind when they hear the word "love." It's characterized as passionate, and very physical. The love catalyst is the body, which awakens these feelings of romantic love.
Scenes involving romantic love include anything with lots of physical touch--kissing, hand-holding, hugging, sex, stomach butterflies. Eros is visceral--you feel it all over, and your characters should too.
5. LUDUS - Playful Love
Ludus is characterized as child-like. Often found at the beginning of romantic relationships, it's when two people are flirting and drawn to each other. It makes people feel happy, giddy, excited, and interested in another person. For that reason, the love catalyst is the emotions.
If you are writing a romance, Ludus is the step before the Eros kicks in. It's that initial chemistry between two people. Don't forget to include scenes of them flirting, doing something fun on a date and enjoying their time together.
6. MANIA - Obsessive Love
Mania is obsessive love over a partner. It occurs when there is an imbalance of Eros and Ludus. One person is not feeling the other, and that person begins to feel desperate. They believe the other person's love will give them self-worth. The catalyst here is the survival instinct. Mania is unhealthy, and can lead to things like jealousy, possessiveness, and codependency.
It would also probably make decent fodder for a domestic thriller, or the type of book that examines unhealthy relationships. Consider crafting scenes of unmatched desire--rejection, uninvited advances, jealousy, and despair (for the person whom the love is not reciprocated).
7. PHILAUTIA - Self Love
When someone is aware of their self-worth, takes care of themselves, and stays in environments that nurture their well being, it's likely they feel Philautia. Positive self-esteem, compassion for oneself, and not ignoring one's personal needs are all facets of this type of love, for which the catalyst is the soul. Through your soul, you recognize your own self-worth and can reflect on your physical, mental, and emotional needs.
What kind of scenes might showcase Philautia? Scenes in which a character stands up for themself, or in which they choose to go against what someone else wants because they know what's best for themselves. Or there could be a scene in which a character does something they didn't think possible or probable. Maybe they succeeded in business or artistically, and feel a sense of pride as a result. Since Philautia begins with acknowledging your own responsibility for your well being, you might craft scenes in which a character comes into that understanding (did they previously look to other people to fill their cup versus relying upon themselves?). A whole book could be about a character moving toward a healthy Philautia.
8. AGAPE - Selfless Love
Agape is the kind of love that people might feel toward humanity as a whole. It's altruistic, given without expecting anything in return. It's the feeling of empathy and love toward anyone under any circumstance. Think Mother Teresa, who was filled with Agape. Or Jesus Christ. Or even Captain America, one could argue.
What kind of book would showcase agape? What kind of scenes? Perhaps you have a character who is fighting for a group of oppressed individuals, or people who cannot fight for themselves for some reason. A lawyer? A superhero? Someone showing up to feed or give to the homeless or less fortunate. These are heroic stories--Schindler's List, Erin Brockovich, heck, even plenty of the Marvel characters should have some variation of Agape driving them. The key here is showing that love of humankind, expecting nothing in return.
Phew! You see? So even if you're writing a thriller, or a MG fantasy adventure, or a book of literary fiction, you should be writing about love. Maybe your MG fantasy is really about the character finding self love and the courage to overcome their demons. Maybe your Literary fiction is about finding Storge after a familial betrayal. Or maybe it's about lamenting the loss of one of these kinds of loves and finding new types of love.
The point is, love is woven into every single story. Tap into it. Use it.