So earlier this week Molly talked about the Thomas novel which features an amnesia plot. Now the Amnesia plot in romance is a staple. I want to say it was almost like the “first trope”. The Adam and Eve of romance tropes.
I can tell you my first category book I ever wrote… amnesia. It’s like a rite of passage. Somewhere deep in our romance psyche we all have that burning amnesia story in us. I have actually planned for the 4th book in my Tyler Group series to be an amnesia story. Yikes!
Why are they problematic? Because they’ve been done to death. Because Soap Opera’s abused them horribly. Because getting hit on the head does not typically equal a total loss in memory. And getting hit on the head again – does not typically bring it back. Although certainly head trauma can equate to memory loss. As can emotional and psychological trauma.
As I’ve documented this year I’ve fallen back in love with 1995 Lois and Clark. In the typical horrifically plotted episodes we have Clark losing his memory after trying to destroy an asteroid. Then Lois losing her memory after hitting her head on a fire hydrant. Memory loss all over the place.
So why do we love it? Why does it work?
In the case of Lois and Clark – and we’ll take Lois (because in romancelandia it usually is the woman who suffers from the condition) - it’s a nice reset. We have two lovers, they are about to get married. They’ve worked out all their emotional issues but we’ve got 4 more episodes we have to produce. Bam! Amnesia – and now she doesn’t remember that she loves Clark and instead thinks she loves Lex Luther. Wonderful new conflict all created by a bonk to the head.
In romance though how is it used? Same scenario where the husband suddenly has to win back his wife? Or in Thomas’s case she used it to basically allow for a reset of a horrible relationship. So the heroine could forget everything the hero did to her and start over.
How am I using it? Well, someone is killed. She has blood on her hands. Only she doesn’t remember anything. Yep – totally cliché. See movie Dead Again with Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.
So it has to be deeper. There has to be another reason.
Remember the moving Regarding Henry with Harrison Ford. In his case it was a bullet to the brain. And I remember the critics saying that he starts out as a jerk and the only thing that reforms him is that he got shot and became someone else. Meaning he never had to work to reform himself. He never had to grow.
In my case beyond the implications of the murder my hero is professional lie detector. A masterful psychiatrist who can use visual clues to determine if someone is potentially lying. So what heroine can I give this guy that he can’t possibly possibly read? She’s either got to be a sociopath (talk about a taboo in romance – sociopath heroine!) Or… she has to be a completely blank slate. A person he can’t read, because beyond her most recent memories there is nothing to read.
Now will I get it right? Probably not. Because pulling off the mother of all tropes – Amnesia – it’s just not easy.
But I’m a romance novelist. I have to try damn it!