For many, the subject of memory remains a mystery.

As a writer, I’m particularly interested in memory. I’m working on two psychological thrillers, both dealing with recollections of past events. The second novel contains a number of flashbacks prompted by triggers, such as a particular sound or a certain smell. For a long time, I assumed that the strongest memories are the most accurate, but about a couple of years ago I heard otherwise.

Apparently, memories get muddled. When a person remembers an event from long ago, they’re really remembering a memory of that event. In some instances, people reinvent memories after a particularly traumatic event.. I’ve even heard that criminal lawyers dread dealing with witnesses who claim to have vivid memories of a crime, as so often the opposing lawyer manages to cast doubt on the witness account.

However, I still think the strongest memories are generally the most accurate. Recently, I got to see a class photograph taken at primary school. I hadn’t met any of the pupils or teachers for years and had moved location many times since the taking of the photograph. Children tend to remember grown ups as being “old”. As an adult looking back, I was expecting the teacher and headmaster to look much younger in the school photograph. But they didn’t. They looked exactly how I remembered them from years ago – a couple of rather austere grown ups. The hair, the facial features, the expressions all matched.

So what does this mean for me? It means that I’ll trust my memories and intuitions in future.

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4 thoughts on “The Memory Game

  1. My memories of actions, faces and events are always clouded by time and whatever daydreams I’ve had between the time it happened and the recollection. I know my mind likes to make things up and fill in the gaps with fanciful little bits of information that never happened. I do have an excellent memory for written words and movies. I can recall entire passages of books (even really boring text books) and I can remember tiny details in movies that have escaped the attention of others. Maybe this just means I need to focus more on reality and my mind would start catching hold of details.
    Thanks for an interesting post. It is interesting to think how my characters might recall a certain moment and what will colour their recollections.

  2. Hi Cassandra,

    Thanks for commenting. Sounds like you have an excellent memory for facts and data. I can appreciate this, being a musician.

    As for memory in fiction, I think it is complex. For instance, a character might might only have recollections of a few precise moments in their past, with lots of blurs and confusion in between. However, I think the character should have perfect sensory recollections of those few selected moments.

    Pretty complicated stuff.

    Best wishes,

    Lawrenceez

  3. Memory is fascinating. I tend to recall imprints, how an event or information affected me emotionally. There are certain events that are vivid; others I have little recollection of but can recall how I felt. (If that makes sense.)

    I agree; it’s complicated. Perhaps there is subjective and objective memories? Either way, both are important…I think.

    I enjoy your sharings!

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