No, I’m not talking about flowers and jewelry. Though they certainly have their place. I think one thing that makes characters memorable is when they do the unexpected. Particularly when revealing love, an unexpected action can have a big impact. And, when writing the male character, non-verbal cues are especially important since men are not so verbal.
In the novel Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, they have their character use a frying pan to say I love you. Not a frying pan as in - cook for me. But one of them brains the bad guy with a frying pan early on. And at the end, the pan becomes a gift. Not romantic, maybe, but it’s different and makes a memorable point.
I read a story once where the hero restores cars for a living and the heroine married a rich man thinking that would buy her happiness. When she finally picks up the chamois cloth and starts polishing the car the hero is working on, you know she’s saying she loves him.
I also think it’s a big asset to real life romance if one can recognize how one’s Significant Other shows love through things they do that aren’t traditional talismans of love.
In my family, one way my husband shows his love is by being the family computer tech. He does not enjoy this work. But he recognizes how important this computer is to all of our lives. So, even if he’s mad at one of us, he will sit down and puzzle through any computer problem we’re having. There is nothing from a jewelry store that could say love as clearly.
Since men are generally less verbal than women, it’s critical to find ways to let them show how they are feeling about the heroine without forcing them to verbalize it. Men who talk too much, especially about emotional things, tend to lose their believability because that’s not how men usually behave in the real world. Even if the reader can’t say what’s wrong, she’ll know something is off.
If you can find the behavior that says I love you without the words needing to be said, that’s a sure way to deepen both characterization and emotion. If you can make the behavior unexpected, then you’re well on your way to a memorable character.
If you have any examples of this, bring 'em on. I could use some inspiration.