1. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Is Memory-Loss overused?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Keitsumah, Dec 20, 2013.

    I don't know why, but i have read a lot of books with this plot tool, and then i actually considered using it in the second book of a series i am writing. I have since changed that idea to make the book more interesting overall in my opinion (plus it prevents the main protagonist from being used -so that makes things more interesting when she knows what's going on, and more suspenseful!) but this question has just kept nagging at me.

    Has memory loss "lost" it's touch?
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I think it doesn't help that most stories with memory loss is complete memory loss, but that's actually very rare. I think you could get away with it if you made it so the character remember some or even most things. I have no sources to back it up; it's just my opinion. :)
     
  3. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    YES, YES, AND YES! If I had a dollar for every Fallout: New Vegas fanfic I've read where the courier emerges from the opening gunshot wound an amnesiac I wouldn't need to work at Hardee's anymore.
     
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  4. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    That and the ubiquitous knock out can be tiring indeed. I hate when a protagonist gets more concussions than the entire NFL in a season, and all in one novel.
     
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  5. Annessa Jones
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    Annessa Jones New Member

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    I think that is is way over used, however its always used inappropriately. If you have memory loss because of a head injury, you not only may never recover all of you memories, but you will continue to have memory loss problems for the rest of your life. The whole forgetting everything and then one event all of the sudden bringing back everything doesn't happen in real life. And sometimes when people remember things its only subconsciously so they don't realize they remember. Memory loss due to trauma, or any sort of physical world means, is much more devastating that what people normally write. So I think that the reality that the memory loss plot device lacks is what makes it tiring, as well as its unlikelihood.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Fainting and the knock-out, definitely overused. Memory loss, I think it depends on the story. The Hunger Games uses brain washing to change a character's beliefs, that worked. The mysteries that start with a character that has to find out something about him/herself, I don't have a problem with. So I think it's still possible to write a good story where memory loss is a mystery to be solved.

    And what Annessa said. When the loss is explained by trauma, that's overdone and usually not well done. It's one of my gripes about the knock-out, people do not just wake up and they're fine. It takes days to recover if you've been unconscious for more than a couple seconds.
     
  7. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm actually reading a novel now that came out 2011, which I think has sold a lot, and apparently will become a movie soon, so I don't think it's overused. As with many things maybe it's in how you use it?
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fahgeddaboudit.
     
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  9. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Uhhh... Could you repeat the question?

    Now... where was I?
     
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  10. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    I think it would be less eye-roll-inspiring if it wasn't this CRUCIAL piece of information that the character needed to remember in order to save the world. That's the part that bugs me. I wrote a story a long time ago in which a character suffered severe memory issues, but it wasn't a focal point - it was added drama. She didn't hold the key to the salvation of the planet - it was a subplot that slowly worked itself out (though, she never really recovered her memory - just came to grips with the fact that she never would). Though, as I did, myself, write a story with memory loss as part of the subplot, perhaps I'm biased.
     
  11. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    On the serious side, it's the same as I've mentioned in other similar queries about plots. It's like jokes. Nearly every joke has been told a different way by some comedian somewhere some-when. If the story needs an old plot scene, it needs it. Period.
     
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  12. Evarnae
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    Evarnae New Member

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    It's a super common theme/element but as with most common themes/elements if it's done well it can be very entertaining. Take for example the movie Memento from 2000, the entire plot is structured on the main character's memory loss to the exclusion of all else and it's a great film. There's plenty of themes that as soon as I encounter them in a story I roll my eyes and have to evaluation whether it's worth continuing or not since I know how it'll end. Like when a man and a woman meet in a coffee shop and instantly hate each other you can bet that within five chapters they'll be sleeping together, but if it's executed well I'm still willing to watch/read and enjoy that story. Or for an even more common example, take almost any fantasy story and it will have some kind of magical gem, sword, staff, cloak, item that the hero needs and is destined to have to be able to save the world. And yet myself and many other people still love fantasy.

    Edit to add: From personal experience of actually being knocked out and having just a mild concussion memory loss is not half as interesting as it's made out to be. I was knocked out just for a few moments but it's taken me years to piece together what happened between the time I blacked out and the time I got to the hospital. It's mostly there now but it has kind of a hazy, dream like quality to it. But the point is that the memories did come back and I didn't lose anything from before the hit. Now I hit my head very hard to have a concussion and realistically knocking someone out by punching them, as happens in most films and books, is actually really difficult and you would have to be extremely unlucky to get a concussion from it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
  13. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    some of my fellow forum members may disagree with me and that's ok with me but i don't think that it is overused i think that is not used enough.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can't overuse an idea. You can only use it in an uninspired way.

    I recently finished a novel built around the old standard, "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back." In fact, the three parts were titled, "Boy loses girl", "Boy meets girl", and "Boy gets girl back (or vice versa)". It was one of the more twisted, disturbing stories I have read in quite a while.

    So don't discard ideas because they appear to be draped in dusty cobwebs. Take them apart to find a different way of using them.
     
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  15. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Making fun of my avatar again, eh?...
     
  16. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Well, I think it really depends on...

    Er, hang on, sorry, I've completely forgotten what I was going to say...
     
  17. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    It seems that memory loss has been misused a lot, especially in TV and video games (especially jrpg's. I mean, holy crap! I think every Final Fantasy game ever has at least one amnesiac character). But, if used right, it can be very interesting.

    Like others have said, it's all about how you execute it.
     
  18. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Damn! My hard drive just did a Q reformat!
     
  19. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is a bit OT, but: I haven't read THG so I don't know how they did it in that particular novel, but brain washing is another plot device that's often misunderstood since the way Hollywood depicts it has little to do with the realism of brain washing. Even though it's starting to be dated, even KUBARK gives a better idea of the subject than any novel / movie I've read / seen so far with brain washing in it.


    Not sure if this is just semantics, but KO'ing somebody and causing a concussion with a punch is actually pretty easy, you just need to hit the guy in the right place hard enough (it sure helps if they can't see it coming, i.e. they may expect it, like in a boxing match, but fighters often do say that the KO comes from the strike you don't see).
    It's just that the effects are usually far less devastating than in most novels / movies: almost always the victim just goes out for perhaps a second or two, then wakes up, and, bit by bit, their memories come back in the next 30 or so seconds. It's just about the same as when you get choked out.
    That's my experience anyway from having trained and been around martial artists / combat sports practitioners / competitors for around 25 years. Most of my friends from those circles have been knocked out more than once. I've experienced it just once and even then I didn't go out 100%, just never could remember where the KO punch had come from (I was told it was an uppercut).

    I've lost consciousness twice for other reasons, and I still (after a few years) can't remember anything from the few minutes leading up to passing out, but after I came to, I hallucinated / didn't know what was going on for about a minute or so and then it was as if a fog was lifted and I was perfectly lucid again. I do remember everything up until the few minutes before passing out.

    For the OP, I'd say that if you do use memory loss, KOs, brain washing etc, just make sure you're realistic about it. We have too many Hollywood depictions already.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    N.B.: "Brainwashing" is one word. Also, brainwashing doesn't usually involve messing with memory. It creates triggers for compulsive behavior.
     
  21. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Cogito, cheers, I suck at compound words (in English, Finnish I can handle) and was too lazy to google it. And yeah, brainwashing, at least what little I know of it, revolves more around altering a person's opinions / views, for instance, or makes a person react with agitation / anger to something that would've been a minor issue to them before (the Pavolovian reaction), but according to the CIA manual, the brainwashing usually "wears off" soon enough unless you keep it up.
     
  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Don't fret. :) The affinity for compounding words, a trademark of the Germanic languages, is wibbly enough in English to leave even native speakers often running through the permutations of separate, hyphenated, or compound to see which one doesn't get the red squiggly. ;)

    To the OP, memory loss is not overused, but it is often badly used. Enough so that any lampoon of American soap-operas is pretty much required to have a random case of amnesia as a plot driver, since real soap operas have someone suffering from it at least twice a week. ;)
     
  23. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh yeah, forgot about hyphenated words. Seriously, I love the English language, even more than Finnish, but sometimes it gives me nightmares.

    Fixed it for you.
     

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