Monday, 6 June 2011

Why I'm Attracted To Scars

(Favorite Disney Villain EVERZ)

Picture A) A man slouching against a brick pillar dressed in khakis and a white button up, looking smooth and suave and every other cliche he's going for. He has the sunglasses held carelessly in one hand, the hair too perfectly arranged for it to be accidental, and, most of all, the smirk. His shirt catches on the pillar and raises a fraction of an inch. Something pale flashes underneath the shirt, an fraction of a scar that must be massive, a quarter inch wide. A second later its gone.

Picture B) A young woman walks into a room with utter silence. She looks confident enough, but is obviously uneasy. Still, with her professional gear on - shorts, a flexible tank top, and at least seven different types of knife - she seems prepared. She turns toward the light, it falls on her arms. There's a pale X on one of her arms - it's faded, old, and nearly white, but whatever caused it originally must've cut deep.

What is it about scars?

Writers loves scars, surely you notice. Tons of characters have physical scars, almost every character has emotional ones. So why are they so popular?

A) Scars add that layer. Sure, they can be cliche or written in badly, but - done well - a scar is as important an element to a story as a kiss. And when kisses are often a happy relief after pages of tension, scars usually raise the stakes.

B) Scars add an element of mystery. And, while it may seem like a cheap trick at first, it really isn't. Characters that have scars remember where they got them. So should the author.

C) A scar is like a signpost. It flashes, 'Here! Look! Mystery!' and I don't think it's a bad thing. It alerts the reader to hidden dimensions in the character and, as a reader, it can be fun to puzzle out what happened.

D) Everyone has scars. Everyone. It's relatable, it's interesting, and, while fictional scars often have better back-stories, we can all imagine getting a badass scar of our own one day. (It'll be epic.)

So what about you? Do you write characters with scars? Do you think it may be a good idea to deepen one of your shallow characters with a scar?



Janet Johnson said...

I have never written in a scar, but I really like what you say about it! Maybe I will. :)

L.G.Smith said...

I have lots of scars in my novel, lol. I have a scene with scars and kisses too. :-O

Marsha Sigman said...

Now I have to!

You are so right on this. I have a few scars of my own and how I got them is so boring but I've always made up really cool stories whenever someone

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My first three books had characters with scars, but then it became too cliche. My current WIP is the first one without any scarred characters.

Anonymous said...

That is a really good idea. I have never written in scars but, yes, it could deepen a secondary character especially. Thanks for the tip!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Love it! Nice one. Scars - physical and emotional add depth. ;D

Christina Lee said...

This is flipping awesome and could go for any type of "battle scar" or distinction on a character!

Phil Hall said...

Scars mean "they've been there", wherever "there" might be is up to the story to develop. The character paid their dues--in blood and pain.

Plus, they're sexy. ;)

Sangu said...

Such a great post! I often write in scars - they suggest things about characters without you having to say it, they can be a learning experience, there's so much you can do with them! (And yes, there is something weirdly sexy about a male love interests who have scars. Seems to say 'badass')

Angela Ackerman said...

Love this post! I agree, it's that the scar has a story behind it, and we immediately want to know it.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Joanne Brothwell said...

I love scars too. My characters have tons (and a few brands, actually).

Richard said...

writing contest....My blog Amish Stories is having its first ever contest this week. The First prize winner will win 2 tickets to tour the farm where the 1985 move "Witness" staring Harrison Ford and Kelly Mcgillis was made in Strasburg,Pa . This farm is now Amish owned, and the family has given permission for folks to tour their farm. This may be the last time anyone will be able to walk and see the same things that Harrison Ford and the other actors saw during the making of "Witness". The Witness tour should last about 2.5 hours. In addition to the Witness farm tour tickets, 1st prize winner will also receive 2 tickets for Jacobs choice. There will also be a 2nd place prize, which will be 2 tickets for the Amish Homestead. Please go to My blog for contest details, and more information on the prizes. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon county.

Talli Roland said...

I have lots of metaphorical scars on my charcters!