My dog recently had her first-ever surgery, leaving a long gash in her belly. She has to wear a cone to stop her licking it until the cut’s healed and the stitches are out. All this has me thinking about scars.
Unless you have a highly traumatic birth, you come into the world largely unmarked. As time passes, though, the neighbor’s cat scratches you, or you fall off the swing set, or have an incident with some heavy machinery or broken glass, and while the wounds heal, the marks stick around. Scars have a way of showing a person’s history. They can influence attitudes and behaviors, both in the bearers of the scars and those who see the scars. For instance, I used to refuse to wear any clothing that might possibly show my knees. I had an accident prone childhood, and my knees had a lot of scarring, which no one else might have noticed but I was self-concious about.
All these real-life observations can be useful in using scars to show character. Scars from a bullet or a knife hint at a violent past. A character’s efforts at hiding their scars might indicate a sense of shame about the events surrounding those scars, or that they come from a culture where anything less than physical perfection is frowned upon. Someone flaunting their scars says something different.
Here are a few scarred characters I feel were especially written well (mild spoilers):
Harry Potter, Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Harry’s lighting scar plays a major role in both his past and his future, as (spoilers) a physical sign of his connection with Voldemort and his being a Horcrux. It warns him of danger and marks him as unique to anyone who sees him.
Kelsier, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Kelsier’s scars from his time as a slave in the Lord Ruler’s death mines demonstrate that he has survived something no one else has. While his memories of gaining those scars are far from happy, he goes to an effort to show the scars off, using them to inspire people to rebellion.
Eragon and Murtagh, Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
Though gained from different locations, their matching scars foreshadow (spoilers) the relationship between these two brothers. Murtagh’s scar makes him a target. Eragon’s makes it nearly impossible for him to fight, for a while.
Kaladin, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson
Kaladin’s special talents could probably heal the slave brands on his forehead if he tried, but he hasn’t. Either he still bears a grudge against the man who gave him those scars or somehow his self-perception says that he ought to have those scars. Neither option says much good for his future mental health.
Know any other well-written scar stories? Let me know!
Another blog I follow, the Fictorians, is celebrating a milestone this month and hosting a free giveaway contest. Visit them at http://fictorians.com if you’re interested.