I’m sure this has been examined in fiction before, but I haven’t seen it done a lot in the genres I favor. So, I’m sorry if I’m totally wrong here. Please feel free to say so in the comments.
Amnesia being the loss of memory creates a situation where a character needs to rediscover themselves. There’s that whole ‘find the trigger’ plot that gets used and half the time is solved by a random encounter. It was the smell of carrot cake at 10 am that did the trick! Seriously though, the story takes on rediscovery, but there is another door that could be opened.
Could an amnesiac character get a chance at a second life?
You see it in comics a lot actually. A character who everyone thought was dead turns out to be alive, but lost their memory. They forgot who they were and fell in love with a person who helped them. Keep in mind that amnesia isn’t supposed to affect one’s sense of identity, which is why it’s tricky to write. This does make it too complicated, which is why these characters end up returning with a new life. Inevitably, they are jolted back to their old selves and return to whatever path they originally hand. The second life is left behind because it no longer fits.
I wonder if this makes any sense. It really only works if the character is removed entirely from their old life. No family, friends, locations, or any connections to the life they no longer remember. Otherwise, people would be there to tell them the truth and help them recover. They can’t get a second life since the first one is laid out before them with a handful of guides. Even in the last paragraph, you can see that the character is drawn back to their old life. This really makes me wonder if such a path is possible.
I don’t believe it is. People have too many identifiers these days like social security numbers, credit cards, social media, etc. The doctors alone would try to identify them, which could include fingerprints and DNA. So, we’re looking at a scenario that is difficult to pull off in reality. That means suspension of disbelief is needed for it to happen in fiction. Otherwise, readers won’t be invested and see immediately how the situation could be remedied. Not so much the memories returned, but the character going back to what could trigger a revival.
This might be why amnesia happens so often to supporting characters. They aren’t in the spotlight, so the audience won’t pay attention to them as much. Disbelief is there because their amnesia and second life are nothing more than tools for the main characters. It could even be that they get to keep their second life because their importance to the plot is over as soon as the one piece of information or an object is gained. Still, you would think the interaction with the main characters would trigger something. This brings up the possibility that you can’t have this type of plot without it being the central theme because all other events could be seen as memory revivers. Now I know why I try hard to steer clear of this trope.
The more I write about this idea, the more I don’t see it as viable. At least, not in the type of stories that I write. Fantasy brings magic into the equation, which would be the cause or the cure. Character lost their memories? A telepathy spell or a psychic can fix that since it’s implied that the memories are simply inaccessible by the person. The brain could even be repaired if the issue is deterioration from dementia. Having easy cure-alls kills the suspense here and eliminates the chance of a second life. The only way it would work is if the amnesiac is struck on purpose and sent away to live a new life. This is done either to protect them or remove them from the scenario. In this way, nobody would be trying to revive their memories.
Again, feel free to tell me how this would work. I’d love to know.