Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Guide to Fictional Amnesia

With another show on TV this year featuring a character with amnesia, I thought I would offer my subject matter expertise, garnered from extensive reading and watching of fictional characters experiencing amnesia.
1. Fictional characters with amnesia, often retain basic motor function memory, so can remember how to tie shoes and open doors, but not who they are or what's going on in their lives.
2. This means no matter how often you ask: What's your name?  What's your favorite food?  And so on.  They. Will. Not. Remember. 
3. In real life, most people, especially post head injury, only lose a few days or weeks preceding the injury.  There are rare cases of folks losing their entire identity or suppressing their identity due to a psychological fear.  As is often the case, these rarer scenarios are way overrepresented in fiction. 
4. If you are the fictional amnesiac, it is super helpful, if each time you do trigger a memory, you have an audible and/or physical reaction to such so that the characters around you know to immediately ask what's going on. 
5.  Also, as a fictional amnesiac, your memories will likely come in tiny yet misleading clips, that will only create a useful picture a few chapters or episodes down the line.  (This is a corrollary to the all ghosts and prophesies speak in code.)
6. Also, spoiler, you are usually in love with someone you don't remember.  They are usually not the person your amnesiac self is finding some, um, tingly feelings for. 
7. The good news is you are almost always a good person, or the amnesia teaches you to be a better person. And the people around you will be really thrilled.  (You know, after that one misleading clue causes you to briefly lose everyone.) However, if you are the central character of a show, you may be getting those memories slowly, with bigger revelations timed for sweeps.