Last week I witnessed a women getting run over by a car.
Although the woman survived the incident with only cuts and scrapes, the image still burns in my mind. I see her look of dismay and her flailing arms at the moment she was hit. I watch as my mind replays the horror of watching the car push her body into the street like some discarded piece of trash. The vision is as clear as if it were happening again right in front of me.
Episodic memory is a person's unique memory of a specific event. It is not completely understood why we remember certain instances in our life while others go unrecorded, but it is believed that emotion plays a key role in our episodic memories. The emotions we experience at the time help to bake the event into our long-term memory so that it becomes more strongly ingrained.
When I was writing Windborne, I found myself drawing heavily on my episodic memory of events that had happened in my childhood. As I wrote, I relived these experiences and was able to describe them in great detail. Writers of psychological thrillers often employ this technique through the use of flashback. Many times the character's motivation is revealed through incidences that resurface in their episodic memory. These memories are often triggered by something they experience in the present that immediately sends them back into the past where they relive the experience for the benefit of the reader.
Episodic memory is unique to each individual. That is why eye-witness accounts often vary. However, the recounting of the memory will often trigger a similar memory in the listener. This tool can be invaluable in producing empathy. It can help the reader identify and sympathize with a character.
Many readers of Windborne have shared that they experienced similar events in their lives or they remember stories handed down through the generations that were similar in nature. This is a key element in all of my writing...to touch the reader's memory and sensitivities so that they can not only appreciate the story, but also experience it.
Wanda DeHaven Pyle is the author of Windborne, The Stone House Legacy and The Steel Canyon Legacy available on Amazon and Kindle at
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