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I thought all men’s legs looked like that—harsh crevices outlining the muscles, puckering around the edges. Long gashes ran down his thighs, the shape of a huge eye to my youthful imagination.
I stared at them, not because they were unusual, but because they were at eye level.
Dad stood at the bathroom sink every morning, the scrape, scrape of his razor rasping away his overnight beard growth. Water trickled in the sink, swishing when he rinsed.
I sat on the floor or on the cool edge of the tub and watched the foamy white cream disappear behind each stroke.
His legs were not my focus, but children see what’s at eye level, soaking it in. I saw Dad’s legs.
Confirming my belief that Dad’s legs were normal was the balance between each limb. The symmetry of the scars gave them permanence.
I accepted those legs as sculpted and muscular. Not the ravaged remains of skin grafts after a bomb in France blew up beside a young soldier. War warranted a brief mention in my childhood years, the reason behind Dad’s missing finger. I imagined his finger shot off while he peered over the edge of a dirt embankment. I was much older before I learned the truth. That my father, six months into his stint in the war, experienced the unfortunate luck of escorting prisoners when a bomb exploded next to him. I can still see the look of wonder on his face when he told me that those same German prisoners carried him to safety after the explosion.
Dad was nineteen. He spent the rest of his life missing a finger, living with tinnitus, carrying shrapnel around in his shoulders, and standing on the most beautiful legs I ever knew a man to have.
Later, when I noticed other men’s legs, I knew the difference. I realized the beauty of the surgeon’s renderings saved my father’s life, grafting skin where he needed it more.
To me his legs represented what was normal and, with my growing awareness of their true meaning, beautiful. I don’t know if Dad ever realized how I saw his legs, but the daughter in me hopes that somehow he felt my innocent acceptance as a blessing.
In my last post, Character Development: the Johari Window , I introduced the Johari Window as a tool for developing your characters. It's important that your character not know everything about their situation. These unknowns can lead to an intriguing story and create possibilities for conflict within the story. How do you use the Johari Window? In this post, I thought I'd provide a simple example of the Johari Window with a character most people know: Harry Potter. Below, I have filled out the Johari Window as it might appear within the first few pages of book 1, Harry Potter and The Sorceror's Stone . The Johari Window based on Harry Potter and The Sorceror's Stone Three of the quadrants in this window reveal what Harry doesn't know about who he truly is and what happened to his parents. I could add a lot to the quadrants representing what he doesn't know, but I hope this gives you an idea on how a Johari Window might be used. What do you d
When you write about character's of different races, how do you describe their skin tone? If you've never thought about this, then consider this question: How do the authors you read described persons of color? A few months ago, I attended a webinar about writing diverse characters. The guest was Eliana West of Writers for Diversity . The information she shared felt fresh and valuable, especially related to describing a character's skin tone. I get really tired of seeing African-descended characters described in terms of the goods that drove, and still drive the slave trade--coffee, chocolate, brown sugar. There's some weird psychosocial baggage attached to that. -- N. K. Jemisin As this quote from author, N. K . Jemisin , indicates, historically, writers have described people of color using food-related descriptors. Many people of color find this offensive. This surprised me, at first, but she has a point, especially when you view it through the quote above. My fir
One of the mistakes writers make is to create a character who is a lot like the writer...or who the writer wishes he was. When I'm reading a book, I can tell the character is the better version of the writer. You know, the writer with all of the great looks and skills the writer wishes he has. I have one word for this: Boring! What do you know about your protagonist? You have freedom to create anyone you want as your protagonist. It can be a lot of fun to create a character who is completely different than you. Whatever you do when creating your character, you need to know more about the character than the character knows about herself. Which is one reason why creating a fictional "you" as the protagonist gets boring. You have to get outside the character to create a full personality. At a recent conference, the workshop on character, taught by John Kessel , got me thinking about some of the tools I use in corporate training. This suggestion--know more abou