Writing Prompt #6: The shape of memory

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

May 25, 2009 -- 11:11 p.m.

Title: "Memory"
Genre: Any
Type: Setting/characterization

This is another worldbuilding one. Or characterization. Whatever floats your boat.

In honor of memorial day, I want you to write about and think about how memory has shaped you as a person. How has memory formed you? Would you be the same person if you had different memories? If you woke up with no memories at all, would you be different? Yes, obviously, but how? What restraining influence has memory had on you? Has past experience made you frightened or overly cautious?

For example, my memories of being taunted by my classmates as a child, of having my confidences betrayed by people who called myself "my friends" have made me more shy and reluctant about sharing personal things about myself. On the other hand, I also have memories of how wonderful my friends have been, how supportive they've been in hard times, so I know that they're worth the risk.

A lot of characters seem to come onto the pages with no memories, no past. They have been shaped by a few key points and details, but the ordinary, every day tragedies and successes seem like they're missing from their lives. What are some of the memories that have shaped your character?

A big difference between America cultural (Caucasian, anyway) and other countries, like, say Iran, is that we don't obsess about history as much. Other peoples live in the past, but most people don't even know the date of the civil war (myself included--I have a horrible memory for that kind of thing, even though I'm interested in it). That's good in some ways and bad in other ways.

What place would memory have in an alien society? Is it important? Can they share memories psychically? How would that change their actions/culture? What would be the same? What if the aliens had no memories at all? What if they focussed, exclusively, on the here and now? It's not as farfetched as it seems: there are some mentally disabled kids who seem to have difficulty understanding change. If something IS, it must always have been that way. You can move a block from one stack to another and they'll think that the block has always been in the second stack.

Could there be any advantages to this kind of thinking? How would it affect alien/human negotiations/commerce/war?

For further reading, I'd recommend Guy Gavriel Kay's book Tigana, where a sorcerer tries to wipe out not just a people, but their very memory. It's so essential, it's no surprise people are willing to kill for it and die for it.


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