Happy Valentine’s Day!
You know what I’d like to read more of? Valentine’s Day stories involving non-romantic love. Romantic love has gotten more than its fair share of stories – but love is far more than most Valentine’s Day tales make it out to be. In fact, ancient Greece (the birthplace of Western civilization!) had four different words for love, referring to four different emotions. Only one of these (eros) is what Valentine’s Day stories typically revolve around. In today’s post, I’d like to share some potential story prompts having to do with the three less explored types of love.
Storge – brotherly love, affection
“Of course I love him. He’s my brother. Even if he does drive me crazy.”
Familial ties, whether between parents and children, siblings, cousins, or people who simply share being in the “family” of humankind, are the most natural of all the forms of love. It ignores reasons for being loveable, and simply loves because of who one is. When a soldier throws himself in front of a bomb to save his squad, when five people are trapped in a submarine and suddenly feel a kinship with each other that drives them to work together to get them all to safety, when a tribe goes to war because one of their members has been wronged, it is a form of storge.
- A brother and a sister superhero who haven’t spoken in years need to come together, work out their differences, and forgive each other before they can take on the new supervillain who is terrorizing the city.
- To save her son’s life, a mother must make a perilous journey through the jungle to find a forbidden cure. Terrible things are spoken of the cure – they say it could unleash evil upon the world, kill the one who uses it, or even worse. But that doesn’t matter – without the cure her son will die, so into the jungle she must go.
- Four students – a computer geek, a football player, a marching band trumpeter, and a poet – stumble across a portal that takes them back in time to ancient China. They have to work together to get back home, and in the process, become fast friends.
Philia – friendship love
Bromances, groups of girlfriends, teammates, coworkers – lasting friendships built on shared interests or activities have at their heart a deep-rooted affection for the other person. Delighting in another person’s company, enjoying playing a sport with someone, being committed to a team and one’s teammates in order to accomplish a goal – all of these are examples of philia. Good friendships have staying power that is worth celebrating, and that staying power is love.
- In the future, a special forces unit of six Terrans must face their largest challenge yet: to infiltrate the alien high command and steal the key to the global defense system that will allow Earth to fight back against its alien overlords.
- The “problem kid” at the orphanage at Tonzimmel joins its freezeball team in a last-ditch effort to avoid getting expelled, but finds new life in the game and in the companionship of the other boys on the team.
- Two teams of explorers races against each other through an alien jungle to find the famous Ice Crystal. The team that finds it first will go down in history, while the losers will be condemned to forced labor to pay off the huge costs of the expedition. Both teams have skilled members and a drive to win – but our heroes have a secret weapon: they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and trust each other completely, while the other team is comprised of professional treasure-hunters who view this as just another job.
Agape – unconditional love
Forgiveness, self-sacrifice, returning good for evil, wishing others well when they don’t deserve it – these are the actions of unconditional love, and the plots that stick with readers for years. Characters who act unselfishly, who give so that others can benefit, who refuse to take advantage even when they are justified in doing so, show us the truest reflection of the best kind of love. Unfortunately, while these stories are some of the most powerful when they occur in real life, they are also the hardest to believably create in fiction. Here are some ideas that might inspire you:
- A young gang member with no family shoots a man in cold blood as part of his initiation, but gets caught by the police. Rather than press charges, the victim’s brother and his wife adopt the gang member as their own son.
- A knight on his way home from war sees that a helpless village is being attacked by marauders. Though they aren’t officially under his protection, he charges off to face the armies single-handedly, sacrificing himself to ensure the villagers’ escape.
- After converting to a religion against the wishes of her husband, a woman finds herself divorced, penniless, and without any job skills. Nonetheless, she prays for her husband every day for the next fifty years, even as she struggles to put food on the table, that he will find the truth and peace that she knows he needs.
So this Valentine’s Day, take time to appreciate your family, to enjoy your friends, to serve others, and to read and write stories about characters who do the same – because love is about far more than romance.