1. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    Help with a character who's lost his memory

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MarmaladeQueen, Sep 3, 2011.

    I'm not sure whether I should have posted this under plot development or character development. Both are applicable.

    This relates to a problem I've been having for ages with a novel. I've written quite a bit of it, and from time to time return to it to try to progress it, but I always get bogged down with the same problrm.

    This is a main character (male, in his 40s, British, a photo-journalist) who has lost his memory in an accident (a terrorist bombing as it happens, but that is secondary). He is left trying to piece together his life from what other people tell him. But no-one tells him the full story. There is something about his past that they don't want him to know. He feels like he is putting together a really complicated jigsaw from thousands of little pieces, but however hard he works at it, and however he approaches it, he keeps sensing that there are some pieces missing. His quest is to find out what it is that no-one will tell him.

    My problem is that I just can't think of what might have happened in his life that they don't want to tell him. I've tried getting it to work with something along the lines of marital infideility but I couldn't get that to work. I've had him married to one person who he left a month before the accident to live with another woman he'd been having an affair with, but that didn't work.

    Any ideas, anyone?
     
  2. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Who is he? Where was he born? Who were his parents? What was his childhood like? Where did he go to school? How did he get into photo-journalism? Does he have any beliefs? Did his beliefs change as he grew older? etc etc etc.

    Answering these kinds of questions will help you find the plot.
     
  3. J.P.Clyde
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    J.P.Clyde Prince of Melancholy Contributor

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    I don't have any ideas of what they may keep from him. But I can give you an experience of my very own. January of this year and ending of December's year [some weird kinky timeline] I had a car accident. We were side T boned in the intersection.

    My fiancee was killed and so was...nevermind. I don't have everything there in my memory and I know things are missing. I can feel them. When I try to remember it comes out like a fuzzy television channel. So much background noise and it's cluttered. It's hard to focus on all the details even though I know I know the details.

    My suggestions:

    -Maybe they won't tell him someone like a best friend or something died in the bombing. Hide it from him.

    That's a suggestion, but I cannot be the one to give you ideas. I hope instead to share my experience and hope you can peel something from it.
     
  4. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    Thank you so much for sharing that. I am so sorry you've had a personal tragedy like that. I can't pretend to have any understanding of what you've been through, and I know any words of condolence must seem very empty, but I really appreciate you sharing that.

    I have read up a lot on retrograde and anterograde amnesia (how did people ever write before the www and Google?) but it's good to hear a first hand description.

    I wish you all the best for your recovery.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You had a child and that said-child died in the terrorist bombing. The reason why no one would tell him is they think that he is better off not knowing, as it would only bring him grief. Rather let him never to remember the child, so he can get on with life as normal.

    Not the most original, but it could work.
     
  6. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    I've thought of having someone who died - not necessarily in the bombing, but perhaps a child or fiancee who'd died earlier, but while you perhaps wouldn't rush to tell someone sad memories, you wouldn't withold them either. You'd tell them about it when they'd recovered enough.

    I'm after something that they are deliberately witholding over a longer period than the immediate aftermath. It's got to be something that's shocking, that's taboo in some way. Something that the family never talk about, that they pretend never happened. I could give him a twin brother who he'd killed accidentally when they were very young, but that a bit like "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" (Kate Atkinson).

    Perhaps incest or child abuse...
     
  7. Batgoat
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    Batgoat Senior Member

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    If he's a photo-journalist, then surely the tools of his trade and the photos he has taken would shed some light about his past, yes?
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Ask yourself questions about what could have come up in his past that others want to be secret. Be creative with it. He's a photojournalist! Try to draw his past first then find what could have happened.
     
  9. Mikeyface
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    Mikeyface Member

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    I think having a story where he pieces together his entire history through his own photography--chasing down all of the places he took them, is a great idea.

    You're correct that the aspect of his life they're trying to hide must be massive. I'd go with the child scenario, where once he pieces his life back together, it actually just tears him back apart.
     
  10. Summer
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    Summer Member

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    I think it might be helpful to start narrowing down a couple things about this "thing that happened". It is kind of in line with what Solar is saying but more specific to this "thing that happened"?

    Like:
    • Is it a singular event or a series of events?
    • At what time in his life did it happen? (in his childhood, teens, 20s, etc.)
    • Was it a consequence of something he did (or didn't) do?
    • Is it something he witnessed? Is this related to his job?
    • Who was involved in this thing? (ie family, friends, innocent people, etc.) How did it effect his relationships with these people? Are there people in the story you have in mind that have been effected by this thing as well?
    • Is it something your character feels remorse/regret over? Or was it just something terrible to see?

    Answering these questions (plus a few more that you could come up with) might help inspire you.
    Good luck!
     

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