Why does one of my main characters have a prominent facial scar?
A rough pink scar ran diagonally across his right cheek, from under the outside corner of his eye, down to the corner of his lips before it curved down his chin to his jawline. His upper lip pulled at the scar, and his lower lip puckered a bit around it.Description from Prince of Shadow and Ash of Regulus’ facial scar
Do you have physical scars? Do you remember how you got them? How do they make you feel?
I have several scars. None of them are huge or super noticeable. I know there are many people with far worse scars. A few are basically invisible to anyone but me. But, they do still exist.
Stretch marks from growth spurts.
A couple faint, thin long scars on the back of my wrist from catching my arm on a sharp edge of my bed frame while trying to fish something out from storage under my bed when I was a young teen.
A tiny scar on the columella of my nose from surgery to improve my deviated septum when I was 13, almost 14.
A couple are a little more obvious.
A scar on my left hip from bone graft surgery to replace a bit of bone that was missing above my front teeth when I was 9. It’s always covered by clothes, but it wouldn’t be covered by many styles of swimwear.
And a scar on my lip people tell me they don’t even notice, but I do. I don’t have a philtrum. I just have a scar from my cleft lip.
You know what? I don’t mind them–anymore.
It’s been a struggle at times to accept those last two scars.
My cleft lip scar is glaringly obvious to me. And it’s annoying. I regularly, especially in the winter, get dry lips. That would be whatever, except that right next to where that scar crosses the underside of my upper lip, my lip develops a rough layer of dead skin when it gets dried out that slowly falls off and I usually have to end up–somewhat painfully–pulling off. (Gross, I know. Sorry.) I have to make sure I apply extra sunscreen to my lip so the scar doesn’t burn. And, especially in my teens, it was very obvious to me that my lip did not look…normal. And in my insecure teenage mind, that meant my lips were not attractive. And…you know how teens can be about self-image.
When I got my bone graft done, I have a very clear memory–at nine–of the surgeon telling me it wouldn’t be too obvious. They’d make it blend in as much as possible, but I “probably wouldn’t be able to wear a bikini” if I didn’t want it to be seen. Because in a bikini, it would be noticeable. At the time, this didn’t bug me. I didn’t wear bikinis and had no interest in doing so. But that comment stuck with me, because the implicit message was “scars are unattractive. Scars are best hidden.” Said to the person with a scar on their lip. Thanks.
My nostrils aren’t even. That’s not a scar, but it is a byproduct of my cleft lip and deviated septum (which itself was a byproduct of my cleft lip). The surgery at 13 helped a lot, but sometimes…I struggle to find my asymmetrical nose not ugly. Even though most people, again, say they don’t even notice.
But as I’ve gotten older, I kinda like my scars. My scars are part of me. They’re a part of my story. And they’re a sign I survived something–even if it was only minor surgery. And I’ve learned to accept that while my scars are a part of me, they don’t define me. I’m more than my uneven nose or my hip that never grew all the way back or my lack of a philtrum on my lip.
I don’t remember exactly when I decided Regulus has a large facial scar. But I know it wasn’t only because I wanted him to “look tough.” That’s part of it, sure. It hints at his rough life. And honestly, I often find a facial scar attractive on guys. *shrugs*
But…it’s also part of Regulus’ insecurities. It’s something he’s self-conscious about. Something he assumes Adelaide won’t like. He has other bodily scars, too–a lot. Plus several emotional scars. But those he can hide. He can’t hide the scar on his face.
There’s a lot of hiding in the Prince of Shadow and Ash duology. Hiding secrets. Hiding insecurities. Hiding shame. Hiding from anticipated judgment. Hiding fears and doubts. And some things–like Regulus’ scar–my characters might like to hide, but can’t.
Regulus’ scar–and Adelaide’s complete acceptance of it–is symbolic of the larger themes of self-doubt, acceptance, and the frustration of feeling there are parts of yourself you have to hide to be good enough. It’s me saying, “Scars aren’t ugly. Scars aren’t shameful. You don’t have to hide them to be lovable. You don’t have to hide them to be valued. If someone truly accepts you, they will accept your scars, too.” And that goes for invisible scars, such as emotional scars, too.
Book two isn’t just about not hiding from the people who care about you, but also about surviving difficult experiences. It’s about people being stronger together, and leaning on each other when they can’t stand on their own. There are themes of strength sometimes not looking how you expect it to.
Being strong doesn’t mean you weren’t hurt. Healing doesn’t erase the pain. My physical scars don’t bother me now (well, sometimes my hip randomly itches). That doesn’t mean I don’t remember how much they hurt when I got them. But the fact the aftermath was difficult and at times I cried doesn’t mean I wasn’t strong. Sometimes, strength isn’t avoiding pain or being so “tough” the pain doesn’t bother you. It’s acknowledging the pain and surviving anyway. There’s a lot more on finding strength in weakness in book 2, but I won’t get into that here, because it branches off too much.
This quote is from late in Prince of Shadow and Ash book 2, but it’s relevant:
“ Maybe this is selfish of me… I’m glad my magic didn’t erase your scar.” She smiled. “It’s a reminder. Scars mean we survived.”The Mercenary and the Mage book 2, Staff of Nightfall
So you. Yeah, you.
Your scars are beautiful. Your physical scars. The scars on your heart or in your mind. They don’t make you weak or ugly or less than. They’re proof you’re strong enough to survive them–even when you don’t feel particularly strong. And I love your scars. And you.
Until next time,