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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Give Your Characters Scars


Everyone has scars. The scar pictured above is on my knee. When I was young, the closest small grocery store to our house was within easy walking distance. Still, there was a shortcut through the woods which everyone used--a well-worn path with a few rocks along the way. 

My parents lived from paycheck to paycheck. Whatever we needed during the week was put on an account at the little store. At the end of the week, Dad cashed his paycheck and paid the bill. My brother and I were sent on frequent errands to purchase groceries. We didn't carry money, only a signed note from my mother listing what she wanted along with her signature. 

One day on one of those errands, my brother decided to race me. He was a year older and I was left behind in the dust. Though I tried valiantly to catch up, I tripped and fell. My knee hit one of the rocks. I had a bleeding gash on my leg and my brother was nowhere in sight. 

One of the other kids in the neighborhood came along and helped me hobble home. My mother cleaned up the wound and put an oatmeal pack on it. Mom had great faith in her oatmeal poultices which were made of hot oatmeal mixed with sugar. She put a huge dollop of the stuff on my knee and wrapped it with clean strips of cloth. The goo stayed there until it was dry. That way it drew all the poisons out. (Don't try this at home.) I didn't get stitches and fortunately I didn't get an infection. I was a bit angry with my brother though. 

It's only one scar. I have others and each scar has another story that goes with it. (You can read about another one HERE.) 

We all have scars. For the most part, scars are good things. We heal. We learn to avoid dangerous situations. The painful experience can change us, but usually in a positive way. Getting injured teaches us to be more compassionate toward others. 

Scars change us. 

Some emotional scars cannot be seen but they are just as painful. With help, those can be healed, too, though it often takes more than a glob of hot oatmeal.

As a writer, I always give my characters scars--of one sort or another. Scars define characters and make them realistic. Behind every character's scar is a story, just as there are stories for my scars. 

Scars change our characters and make them who they are. Give your characters scars and give them life. 

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