Character Creation Tip: Scars and Tattoos

Hey, guys! Been a while since I’ve given any sort of writing advice. Or been around at all; I’ve been a little busy, as you may or not know. But I had a conversation with my Aussie friend last night that, reading back on it this morning, I decided was something worth bringing up here.

You may or not know this; I never know what or how much I’ve blurted out about my characters here, but Ess gave Luckas a tattoo some time ago. Now, this tattoo is important to Luckas and, story-wise, him getting it is a very important point in their relationship. Not only the tattoo itself but the fact he asks Ess to ‘sign her work’, meaning that he trusts her enough to allow her to permanently brand her name onto his arm. Sam is clearly not happy about that, but pissing off the evil bitch is just a bonus. 😛

While talking to my friend I mentioned the possibility of other characters of mine getting tattooed by Ess at some point; most likely after the ‘we’re all dying omg’ part of the story is through. Jake definitely will, but maybe others as well. So he asked me “if everyone gets a tattoo, won’t Luke’s somehow be less special?”

First of all, this isn’t a good example of what I’m going to talk about here because these are things that will likely happen after the RP’s timeline and we may not actually include in the official story. I just wanted to give you guys some context of how it came up in the first place. Second; no, no it doesn’t.

Luke’s tattoo has a particular significance to both him and Ess. It was a gift from her to him, and he trusted her to decide what it would be. It was a meaningful moment in their relationship and is a permanent reminder of their bond. That is the meaning behind this tattoo. Any other tattoo Ess gives will have its own significance to the character getting it and has nothing to do with Luke’s. If all the tattoos in question were just a pure matter of cosmetics to these characters, then yes; that would get old and cliche really quick. And I wouldn’t do it.

That, kiddies, is my advice of the day: physical modifications need to have a significance beyond ‘looking cool’ or adding a ‘badass factor’ to a character. Scars are the greatest example of this. Scars mean ultimate badass. Look at all the times this character almost died but didn’t! Holy shit, they must be a beast!

Gabrielle, the leader of the Wolf Hunters in Shadows Rise has NO scars. Because this woman who hunts assassins for a living never having a blade sink into her flesh deep enough to leave a permanent mark is a hundred times more badass that all of Dastan’s scars combined. Because the Wolfpack at that point in time was efficient to the point where if a Wolf gets the opportunity to cut you; you don’t survive. Giving her scars would not only undermine her strength but that of the assassins she hunts.

Out of all my characters, Dastan has the most scars. Now they don’t all have a special significance, but they do serve the purpose of showing who he is and how he sees the world. In life or in a battlefield, Dastan is the kind of guy who faces things head on. He doesn’t hide behind armor and he’s not afraid to bleed. It’s not always the wisest approach, and he knows this, but he doesn’t know how to act any other way. If he has to bleed, he’ll bleed, if it’s his time to die… Well… Everyone has to go one day. >.>

Recently I pondered whether to give him a new scar during this event we have coming up in the RP. And I thought really hard about this. Despite the fact he has a bunch of them already and his brash behavior makes him prone to them overall, anything that permanently alters a character’s appearance, to me, needs to have a reason; needs to be a part of their development.

My rule for this sort of thing is, in the words of my least likable character. “If something cuts you deep enough that you want to remember it, then you let it scar.”

If something is significant to a character’s story, then it’s plausible to make it permanently and physically a part of them. It shouldn’t be purely cosmetic.

That… Is just my take on it, though. It’s my way of doing things. You do you. 😉


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