This month for the Round Robin topic we are talking about emotionally scarred characters. The questioned posed is; “What mental, physical or spiritual wounds or scars have you used in your stories?”
The truth is … we all have scars. Whether they’re big or small or whatever, we have them. They define us as people. And the same should be said of any fictional character.
Now as a writer I don’t sit down with a particular “scar” in mind for the characters I’m dealing with. It’s really a discovery process for me. But once I’ve discovered that particular “wound” in my character’s personality I make sure to highlight it during the editing process and really draw it out.
Because being a writer is really being a student of humanity. We’re here to show what it is to be human and touch on subjects, both painful and joyful, that are often too complex to be fully expressed.
But which scars have I actually used?
Well, Trenna Dyngannon (Sedition series) had a serious issue with her mother that was really brought out in the second book of the series; Saboteur. Basically there was neglect and self-worth issues that Trenna had to battle through, which I found very interesting given how very strong Trenna is as a character.
One wouldn’t expect someone like Trenna Dyngannon to feel a sense of inadequacy, but due to close contact with her mother she finds herself struggling to remember that she isn’t actually defined by what her mother does or says.
In the Tapped series, both Seach and Jorry are deeply scarred by the fact that they had to abandon their former Captain. Relo’s absence is a deep burden for both of them given that they know exactly what has been done to him at the clutches of the government.
On top of that, Jorry and Seach are haunted by things that happened during the war. Moments that they wish they could forget, and truly traumatic orders that they found themselves bound to follow. This particular scar carries through the whole series (I’m in the middle of writing the second book now) and, inevitably, will come to a crisis point where they have to make a decision to either fight again, or try to find some other way to change the galaxy as they know it.
But perhaps the most noticeably scarred character of mine is Reesa Zimms from the book Deviation. Reesa is a science fiction novelist who has used her writing as a means of therapy for herself (no, this is not even remotely autobiographical, I promise) and in the book … well … let’s go ahead and give a snippet. I haven’t done one of those in ages.
“I’m dying, Matt,” she whispered.
She felt him move to her side, felt his knuckle graze her cheek, and heard him sigh. “David is very good at what he does. You should have a little faith,” he said.
Opening her eyes again she met his gaze. “And why should I be spared from a fate I forced onto the whole female race?”
He frowned, gently pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, and made a thoughtful hum. She waited for his answer, praying it would be right. She needed him to have an answer, to have some form of redemption for her. Perhaps justice was served in her death, but even death-row inmates were given a chance at clemency, weren’t they?
A final prayer, a last wish, she thought.
“I think we’ve come to the matter of your own motivations, Reesa,” he said. “Tell me why you really wrote the books.”
Her heart might have stopped at the sudden wash of pain. She certainly wished it would. Fixing her gaze on the juncture between wall and ceiling above them, she was transported through her memory, to the small clinic exam room when she was eighteen years old. Her mother’s voice rang loud in her ears, calling her irresponsible and thoughtless, convincing her that a child would ruin eight years of modeling competitions and progress. And in her hand, Reesa could still feel the coarse, politely brown paper bag of contraceptives she’d been given after it was all over.
Matt made a soft, soothing sound and wiped the tears from her face. Reesa closed her eyes, unwilling to look at him as she made her confession.
“I wrote a book where everyone was as ugly as I felt.”
Take a look at what others are saying about scarring their characters!
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
A.J. Maguire https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
5 thoughts on “Round Robin Discussion – Scarring your characters”
I loved this comment: ‘Because being a writer is really being a student of humanity. We’re here to show what it is to be human and touch on subjects, both painful and joyful, that are often too complex to be fully expressed.’ Your examples make your stories compelling reads.
Thank you! Every once in a while my philosophical brain gets something right, lol. But in this case, I’ve been really trying to understand what it is about writing and storytelling that forces me to keep going and … yeah, that’s sort of what I came up with. I write because I want to understand.
That’s why I’ve read everything written by Desmond Morris, the British cultural Anthropologist. His insights into human nature, and why we behave the way we do, are fascinating! Authors are people-watchers to the nth degree! We “create” our characters out of the whole cloth of humanity that is all around us.
AJ, I really liked how you brought up that scars could even be something as ingrained as simple as how one feels when defined by their parents. It’s like how a character can be strong and independent, but if they had a domineering parent and found themselves in a room with them, they suddenly revert to cowed politeness, etc. Fascinating post.
I have to agree with Rachael’s reply AJ – a person who I knew to be intelligent, strong, totally capable and practical was reduced to a snivelling wreck in the presence of the father. That was a very eye-opening day for me. Thanks for the reminder – it’s an aspect I need to work more on for a character in my next book.