The 7 most relatable character scar themes

Does the character deny the truth about their families or his/her own behavior?

Does he/she struggle to acknowledge addiction, abuse, moments of meanness or cowardice?

Does the character live with shame or fear? What does the character do to avoid facing these truths?

But what exactly is a scar?

A physical wound and/or defect that causes low self esteem and keeps the person from leading a happy life. An inner imbalance. Emotional chaos. A feeling of not belonging.

Movies are about a visual desire, something the protagonist wants to achieve. It’s a visible transformation, but it’s also something that forces the protagonist to deal with the inner scars.

The tricky part is to make those inner struggles visible. One way to show these inner weaknesses is to turn to the scar themes.

So if, for example we would pick a theme like rejection the movie could go like this:

Visual desire: Winning a golf tournament.

Scar: Being rejected by his father, who was a famous golfer, but the Parkinson Desease made it impossible for him to carry on with his career and he took it out on his son.

Now add the obstacles to this visual desire. Note: The obstacles need not only be visual, they also need to force the protagonist to deal with this scar!

For the example above, this could mean:


  • Not getting accepted to the country club, resulting in not having a practice gorund.
  • The protagonist is a hypochondriac, which results in him getting the same shakes as his father and the constant fear of the Parkinson desease that is hanging above him like a dark thunder cloud.
  • Self medication. In order to to the shaking he calms his mind and body by drinking. Which makes his state of mind even worse and might also be something that his father did.
  • Being injured. Maybe it’s self afflicated because of a combination of dirnking and exhaustion.
  • His father is gettig worse and he has to take care of him, because now his father is depending on him.
  • He doesn’t have the money to sign up for the tournament, because the medical bills burn through everything.

and so forth.

You see each obstacle is not only something that keeps the protagonist from reaching the visual goal, it’s also something that creates great inner emotional turmoil and by that forces the protagonist to deal with his scars.

Let’s look at seven of the most common scar themes:

  • A physical scar. A defect that causes low self esteem.
  • An injustice. Being a victim or witnessing an injustice.
  • Failure or Mistake. The guilt of having made a wrong decision.
  • Betrayal. Being let down by a loved one.
  • Isolation. Being the loner, a misfit, or otherwise social dropout.
  • Neglect/Rejection. Often between parents and kids, but also love relationships.
  • Disillusionment. Having lived a lie and finding out about it.

A character’s scar is what the inner arc will be about.

Like in life, it’s all about growing, overcoming all the negative „packages“ that one has to deal with from events that were so emotionally damaging that they did change us. And those events leave a scar.

In order to cope with it, we develop flaws that help us avoid these events from happening again. They form a scar, a constant reminder of a painful memory.

The scar dictates almost every action and every choice the character makes in your story.

But the most important aspect of a scar is, that usually the character blames him/herself for this event and keeps thinking that only if he/she did choose differently this would never have happened. This is what others may refer to as redemption. It then becomes about the character’s constant struggle to redeem oneself, to heal the wound, or to let the scar fade. The redemption arc.

In a series you would also add something that is called “unsolvable dilemma”. This would constantly stand in the way of redeeming oneself and make sure a series can last for a long time. This is one big difference between a feature film and a movie.

In a movie you can want the character to transform and change. Therefore you cannot have such an unsolvable dilemma.

In a series you do not want the character to change that much, because this would mean you run out of steam fast. The unsolvable dilemma keeps them going. So the character really doesn’t change that much, but he/she shows new and unforeseen aspects to his/her character.