Amnesia Storylines: What’s happening again?

I have a severe distaste for them. Like, if I see the words “so-and-so lost their memories and must now go on a journey to regain them…” I might have to put it down unless it is a series that I am a hardcore fan of and I trust the author to not ruin it for me (thank you, Heroes of Olympus).

I was reading a manga the other day which has a second series where the protagonist loses all his memories. And I liked the first series a lot so when this happened, I was flabbergasted and frustrated.


This is a common trope in all works of art: dramas, TV shows and books. Once you reach a certain point in the story, the writer decides to throw in some amnesia plotline for some reason. What’s up with that?

Don’t do this to me, Book:

  1. It’s a rehash
No. NO, NO, NO. I hate it when this happens in the middle of a series where you already have an established, well-developed storyline and BAM! let’s hit the protagonist with a car, make them lose all of their memories and have them basically go through their entire journey from book 1.
No. Write a new storyline. Throw the protagonist in new situations but do NOT put them through the same plots with the same reactions except slightly altered. It does not work.
 2. The character development regresses or stalls
Our protagonist has gone through many trials and tribulations and has emerged as a stronger person. Nope, that won’t do. Let’s hit them with some amnesia and watch them lose all of that character development.
This irritates me to no end. The character gets so much build-up only to be torn down. Not all characters get a de-development but a lot of their potential gets stolen away because they have to go back and find themselves again and re-establish their old identity (which is not the well-rounded identity that they may have handed pre-amnesia).
 3.  Amnesia=stupidity
Wait, what? No! NO! Just because you lost your memories does not mean that you are stupid. Don’t do it for comic relief purposes. Don’t do it at all. The readers are not dumb so neither should the character.
4.   Nothing has changed plot-wise
It’s like as soon as somebody gets amnesia, someone else yells “Cut” and halts the entire storyline. The protagonist spends the entire book searching for themselves which is all well and good but there still needs to be a plot in there. It’s boring since the readers already have a good idea of who the character was pre-amnesia.
5. They suddenly get their memories back
This is so unrealistic to me. Especially if this is supposed to be like a serious case of amnesia. The protagonist can’t just suddenly “get rid of it”. I can probably suspend my disbelief a little if it’s a fantasy or sci-fi but there still has to be some logical explanation for how quickly the protagonist regains their memories. And “magic” is not the answer.
To me, it’s a cop-out where the protagonist spends 300-ish pages having amnesia only in the last 50 pages to say “Hey! I remember everything!” and end the book with a happy ending. Memories do not come “rushing back”. It takes time and a lot of patience and to do that in the last few pages? It ain’t happening.

What do you think? Do you love or hate amnesia storylines? Do you think writers should avoid them altogether?


6 thoughts on “Amnesia Storylines: What’s happening again?

  1. THIS. Thank you so much for writing this post Hilary – you’ve taken the words out of my mouth. I think the problem with amnesia books is that the characters don’t know who they are. They don’t know what they like, they don’t know what they hate, they don’t know what mistakes they’ve made in the past and how they’ve learned from those mistakes. Because they don’t really know who they are, we don’t either. And if we as readers don’t know who they are, how are we supposed to sympathize or care for them, you know? Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous discussion! ❤


  2. I’m not a real big fan of them. >_< EXCEPT!! In the Bourne movies (I haven't read the books so can't comment on those tho) but yeah…I feel it's kind of an annoying plot device? It almost feels, sometimes, like a cop-out so the book doesn't have to bother with backstory because there is none. and I hate that feeling of being utterly lost and confused while reading. *sigh* BUT I was okay with it in the Heroes of Olympus because LEO WAS IN THAT BOOK. ❤


  3. DUDE HELL YEAHS TO THIS POST! You’ve basically put everything that I hate about the amnesia story line into coherent sentences. Thank YOU. I feel like it can be done well, but there are honestly so many ways that it can be executed badly aka most of the time and of course, with the exception of Heroes of Olympus! Rick Riordan can pull anything off, lets be honest here 😛


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