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Monday, April 6, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Amnesia

Today's assessment is for Ralene: "My character suffered from a head injury and has amnesia (not sure if they have names for the different types, but this one she's lost her memories, but retains knowledge of to eat, how to walk, etc). Her memory will return by the end of the novel, but from my understanding, it typically returns a little bit at a time. What would that be like? How would the character feel/react? Is it like a bunch of memories at once or one over and over for awhile until things just start clicking?"

First off, amnesia is actually diagnosed by a trained medical professional (unless it falls under dissociative amnesia, which your heroine's does not). I'm not a medical professional, but I do know a little bit about amnesia. There are various types, and the one you are describing is called post-traumatic (or just traumatic) amnesia, following a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Sounds like your character will suffer retrograde amnesia (inability to recall information prior to the injury - you will want to establish some sort of cut off here...typically traumatic retrograde amnesia is such that the person doesn't remember what happened shortly before the injury (hours or days).

As for the return of the memory, the sky is the limit, Ralene. Just about any scenario you cook up could be feasible. It could be a series of the same recurring memory, it could be little flashes of an event in the past that resembles something currently being experienced (deja vu), it could be dream sequences, it could be all at once, it could be chunks. So just let it rip.

What I wanted to talk the most about is the psychological impact of amnesia. It will be important for you to include in your manuscript the character's embarrassment or stress over not being able to remember her past. She could get angry at her predicament, overwhelmed by people trying to "reintroduce" themselves to her, put off/freaked out at how overly familiar some people are with her who she doesn't "know," or in effect meets for the "first time." She should grieve the loss of these memories her past is full of, yet she doesn't remember.

Thanks for emailing, Ralene. Hope this helps out some.

This service is for fictional characters only, so any resemblance to real life examples is entirely coincidental. Any other fictional character assessment questions can be directed to
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Ralene said...

Thanks, Jeannie! I just wanted to make sure I'm on track. I am...but you made some points that will help my character's reactions really pop. :P

Jeannie Campbell said...

glad to be of service! you're awesome for emailing in! :)

PatriciaW said...

Great advice, Jeannie, not only as to the specifics of amnesia but the emotions. This is going to be HUGE.

T. Anne said...

This reminds me of High School when a boy on the football team suffered amnesia. He conveniently forgot all about his high school sweetheart of three years and began dating again.

Jeannie Campbell said...

t. anne -

the common example of this type of amnesia is when an athlete suffers a concussion and can finish the game but then forgets he even played later. but it sounds like this guy *conveniently* forgot his sweetheart?

Katie said...

Awesome stuff, Jeannie! Love it!

Hardygirl said...

Hi Jeannie! Glad you stumbled upon our blog. Hope to meet you soon--you know, in person.


Jeannie Campbell said...

thanks patricia and katie. and hardygirl (love the screen name, by the way!)...hope to meet you soon, too!

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.