In the science fiction novel that I’m writing, one of my main characters, Alleyah, is in a medical facility on a moon of Saturn early in the novel. She’s being rehabilitated after some pretty traumatic experiences fighting in a civil war.
Alleyah has a whole bunch of physical scars: from childhood injuries, training accidents, a couple of missing fingers from the crash-landing on Titan. And when she’s in the medical facility the doctors ask her if she wants them removed and the fingers replaced.
She doesn’t have to think about it too long – she gets her fingers regrown and opts to keep the scars.
She regrows the two end fingers on her right hand because she missed them. Their loss hadn’t impaired her function – she was able to reprogram her pilot’s apparatus and could aim a pistol with her left hand as accurately as her right.
It was the personal, tactile things she missed, drumming her fingers during a particularly boring briefing, running her hands across a lover’s skin, little things she missed where she felt a constant ‘lack’ – like she wasn’t whole.
For Alleyah the scars are different. The most visible is a slash down the left side of her face crossing her eye socket from her hairline to her jawline. It’s a souvenir from her childhood, a game with her older brother gone wrong and almost claiming her eye.
Alleyah’s scars are disfiguring but not disabling. They are a part of who she has become and how she got there, so given the choice she keeps them.
Within the novel Alleyah is the prime connector for the reader. We start with her: a stranger in a strange land, displaced from who she loves and cares about, and before she knows it she’s swept up into other people’s games.
Through that she struggles to hold onto both the person she was and who she wanted to be, pitted against the person that her circumstances are forcing her to become.
Her scars, old and new, physical and emotional, are very much part of that.
NB: Today’s writing challenge was: ‘what tattoos you have, and if they have meaning’. I have none, which could have made this a pretty short exercise. So I’ve decided to reflect a little on one of my characters and the scars she has. (Header picture by tsvetomir Georgiev of The Aaron Sims Company).