1. Tallandboring
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    Tallandboring Member

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    Character with amnesia?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tallandboring, Sep 17, 2011.

    How should I go about writing a character with amnesia?
    I've already written him a lot, but I want to be sure I'm on the right track.

    This guy literally has no memory whatsoever, nothing.
    No name, no memories, nothing.
     
  2. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    Where does he wake up? Does he eventually regain his memories? Does he have any family/friends that can guide him through this time of confusion? What caused this amnesia? Head trauma, a disease, a disorder? I don't know enough about your character to give you a proper direction concerning his development.
     
  3. Tallandboring
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    Tallandboring Member

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    He wakes up in an abondoned medical lab, he has no friends and no family that he knows of. His amnesia is implied to have been caused by the operation, where his memory was wiped. Occasionally he catches glimpses of his memories, but they dissapear as quick as they came.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Is there supposed to be a mystery surrounding this, i.e. readers aren't supposed to find out until later what happened? If so, throw in a red herring. Hint heavily that something else happened to him, but as the story goes on, he unravels the truth.

    Also, you have to consider the best POV to use. Are you writing in first-person, limited-third, omniscient-third, etc.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are different kinds of amnesia. I recommend starting with google, and focus on medicine and psychology sites and articles first.
     
  6. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Soldier in the Mist, Gene Wolfe, was an excellent book in which the MC had an ongoing amnesia. He could never remember anything more then a few days before, and so was continually writing himself notes to tell him who he was etc.

    I'm guessing your MC has only a total retrograde amnesia where he's lost his past but doesn't keep losing it. In which case his battle is two fold, partly about finding out who he was - this is the most important driver in the early stages, and partly about discovering who he is, as time passes this becomes more important, the missing past less so. There are a number of people in the world who have lost large chunks of their past, and though it takes time to get past the loss and the feeling of being lost, in the end the true battle becomes to forge a new life.

    The other thing to remember is that often retrograde amnesia is associated with traumatic brain injury, sometimes surgery or even psychological trauma. In the first two instances there will likely be other mental impairments.

    Cheers.
     
  7. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Soldier in the Mist, Gene Wolfe, was an excellent book in which the MC had an ongoing amnesia. He could never remember anything more then a few days before, and so was continually writing himself notes to tell him who he was etc.

    I'm guessing your MC has only a total retrograde amnesia where he's lost his past but doesn't keep losing it. In which case his battle is two fold, partly about finding out who he was - this is the most important driver in the early stages, and partly about discovering who he is, as time passes this becomes more important, the missing past less so. There are a number of people in the world who have lost large chunks of their past, and though it takes time to get past the loss and the feeling of being lost, in the end the true battle becomes to forge a new life.

    The other thing to remember is that often retrograde amnesia is associated with traumatic brain injury, sometimes surgery or even psychological trauma. In the first two instances there will likely be other mental impairments.

    Cheers.
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I agree with Cogito. Look into the different kinds/causes of amnesia and go from there. I think that will help you to narrow it down.

    Waking up and having no clue who you were would be a very traumatic experience regardless of the cause. I imagine there would be a lot of panic and scrambling to find some clue of their identity before anything else.
     
  9. Tallandboring
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    Tallandboring Member

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    Ok thanks!
    I will be sure to do that, thanks for the suggestions!
    (My story is third person by the way)
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    There was a case in England recently, where a woman woke up in the morning thinking she was still 15. She was about 35. She screamed when she saw herself in the mirror and didn't know her teenage son. I don't think they could pinpoint the exact cause of the memory loss, but gradually with the help of photos etc she was able to remember most things.
     
  11. WriterWM86
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    WriterWM86 New Member

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    I'm currently dealing with this now in one of the books I'm writing now. In my near 20 years of writing (1992--I'm 25 now), I've never had a main character dealing with amnesia until now. The character of Draven "Ryan" Wheeler knows his name, but he doesn't know his age or where he comes from, and the last thing he remembers is he was bump-drafting off his soon-to-be-teacher/mentor Darren's car, a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, colored Garnet Red, on a racetrack in a 1964 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans GTO, colored red. And now he's asking questions about his car knowledge and his existence.

    I wonder what this type of amnesia is called when a person knows his or her name, but doesn't know anything else about them. (I'm new to this "amnesia" thing and the story is first-person.)
     
  12. Kaynic
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    First off, you want to do as much research as you can; amnesia seems to be pretty popular in works from books to movies today, but it's often laughable how unrealistic it is. Anterograde and retrograde amnesia can occur together, for instance--it's not always just one or the other--and one form of memory may be damaged while another is not; i.e. declarative memory may be impaired (one is unable to recall personal episodes) but procedural is retained (an individual may remember nothing about themselves but still be able to play the piano). Amnesia caused by a head injury is often transient and related to the degree of injury, so trauma to the head has to be quite severe to cause total and complete memory loss. Also, it may be almost impossible, if the damage is extensive enough, and permanent, to recall any past incidents.
    Amnesia is a very complex issue and there's a lot of misunderstanding about it; I'd suggest you do as much research as possible.
    On a side note, was he in a coma before waking u? If e was, he would not immediately regain function or consciousness; those waking from a coma do so in degrees, staying conscious for longer periods each day and gradually regaining their function.
     

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