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Memory Tropes

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Jean Grey deals with memories she gained from her copies.

"I like to remember things my own way."
Fred Madison, Lost Highway

Memory and amnesia in TV, movies, and video games works a bit differently than in Real Life... Why? Because memory often makes for an interesting storyline involving one or more characters, and can be used to make a powerful argument on questions such as identity, destiny, betrayal and love. The usefulness of this trope is tricky, as memory loss isn't as common in Real Life as it is in fiction. Don't worry about it too much, as Tropes Are Tools.

Compare Stay Ahead of This Index (as our memories are stored there), Mind Control, Psychology Tropes.

Not to be confused with Please Reflect on This Index.


Remember these tropes:

Remember this index:
  • Absent-Minded Professor: A scientist who is often lost in thought and a little out of touch with the world around them.
  • Aesop Amnesia: A character learns an important lesson in one episode, but in subsequent episodes reverts back to their bad behavior as if the lesson they learned somehow didn't stick.
  • Alternate Identity Amnesia: A character suffers amnesia when changing into another form.
  • Amnesia Danger: A character with amnesia is in a situation they would normally be able to handle, but can't because they don't remember how.
  • Amnesia Episode: An episode where a character develops amnesia.
  • Amnesia Loop: A person discovers something and gets their memories wiped repeatedly.
  • Amnesia Missed a Spot: A character tries to induce Laser-Guided Amnesia and it doesn't quite work.
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  • Amnesiac Costume Identity: A characters with amnesia tries to figure out who they are based on the unusual costume or outfit they are wearing.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: A good or evil person suddenly remembers their past of the opposite alignment.
  • Amnesiac God: A character with amnesia who is actually a Physical God or something similar.
  • Amnesiac Hero: The main hero of a story who can't remember anything about themselves.
  • Amnesiac Liar: A character who lies about who they are only to get amnesia and be told that the things they lied about are who they really are.
  • Amnesiac Lover: A Love Interest under Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Amnesiac Protagonist Catalyst: The protagonist has forgotten something important about themselves when the story starts. Which is that they were responsible for what's currently wrong in the story.
  • Amnesiac Resonance: An amnesiac instinctively performs skills they had before losing their memory, without knowledge of how or why they know them.
  • Amnesiacs are Innocent: People who lose their memory act as innocent as children.
  • Amnesiac Villain Joins the Heroes: A villain working for the heroes and is on the good side only because they forgot their own identity and their past.
  • Awesomeness-Induced Amnesia: A character does something awesome, but can't remember how they actually did it or what they even did.
  • Backstory Invader: A character who is implanted in the memories of other characters who don't really know them.
  • Bag of Spilling: A character loses all their items and abilities in the sequel.
  • Brainwash Residue: A person is no longer Brainwashed, but the effects still linger in their body.
  • Childhood Home Rediscovery: A character rediscovers a place that they lived as a child, but has no recollection of it as an adult.
  • Congruent Memory: A person learns something in a certain environment or emotional or physical state and can only remember what they learned when in that same state.
  • Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: A fake background, but it can't be disproven.
  • Crazy Memory: A character remembers an outrageous moment of their lives that may or may not have happened.
  • Criminal Amnesiac: A character with amnesia is convinced by the villains that they are on their side.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Difference in control layouts makes it easy to screw up.
  • Death Amnesia: A resurrected person has no memory of their death.
  • Death of Personality: A person is physically alive, but their mind has been erased.
  • Déjà Vu: The odd sensation of already having experienced something that is currently happening.
  • Demoted Memories: A person remembers that they used to be something great, but chooses not to believe that it's real.
  • Easy Amnesia: Developing amnesia through something as simple as being hit on the head.
  • Eat Brain for Memories: Gaining someone else's memories by consuming their brain.
  • Elephants Never Forget: Elephants are often depicted as having prodigiously strong and accurate memories.
  • Eye Recall: A flashback sequence that starts with the camera zooming inside the pupil of the character recalling the memory.
  • Fake Memories: Remembering something from the past that didn't actually happen.
  • Faking Amnesia: A character pretends to have amnesia.
  • Fighting Down Memory Lane: A character uses their opponent's memory as a weapon.
  • Flashback Fail: A character tries to flashback to something that happened earlier, but that doesn't quite remember what actually happened or what was said.
  • Flashback-Montage Realization: A montage of previous scenes and lines of dialogue, representing a character remembering all the clues hinting at The Reveal.
  • The Fog of Ages: A character who has lived for so long that they start to forget common things.
  • Forgetful Jones: A character who is incapable of remembering anything.
  • Forgets to Eat: A character who's notorious for ignoring their body's need for nutrition and has to be reminded to eat.
  • Forgettable Character: A character who is often forgotten by other characters.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: A character forgives others, but still will not forget what they've done.
  • Forgot About His Powers: A character suddenly forgets a certain skill/ability that could easily get them out of a tough spot.
  • Forgot the Call: A character gets amnesia and forgets that they're an action hero.
  • Forgot the Disability: Forgetting that the person you're with is disabled.
  • Forgot I Couldn't Swim: Going swimming, then remembering you don't know how.
  • Forgot Their Own Birthday: A character forgets when their own birthday is.
  • Forgotten Birthday: No one notices a character's birthday.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: It's established that two characters actually met before what was believed to be their first meeting, they just didn't remember their real first meeting.
  • Gameplay-Guided Amnesia: A video game character needing reminders of how to do certain things as an excuse for the players to receive exposition and tutorials.
  • Genetic Memory: An ability to record personal memories/skills into their genes and pass them onto their offspring.
  • Ghost Amnesia: A character becomes a ghost and has no recollection of their past life or even how they died.
  • Ghost Memory: A character receives memories or abilities that weren't originally theirs.
  • Happiness in Mind Control: A victim of mind control who does not want to be freed.
  • House Amnesia: A person orders someone to get out of their house, only to be reminded that it's their house.
  • Human Notepad: A character who is covered in writing.
  • Identity Amnesia: A person forgets who they are and thinks they're someone else.
  • Immortality Through Memory: The idea that someone only truly dies when they are forgotten.
  • Injury Bookend: A repeat of what caused an injury gets rid of it.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: A person is made to forget very specific things.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: People having a skewed memory of a previous installment in the sequel.
  • Living Memory: A memory of a character becomes alive and able to interact with other characters.
  • Loss of Identity: A character deals with their sense of identity after radical mental, physical or spiritual changes.
  • Manchurian Agent: A Brainwashed person is awakened by a certain trigger.
  • Memory Gambit: A character sacrifices their own memories for a tactical advantage.
  • Memory Jar: An object that is imbued with memories for safekeeping or viewing.
  • Memory Palace: A character's memories are shown as an organized space where memories can be retrieved.
  • Memory Wipe Exploitation: Someone exploits character's memory loss for their own gain.
  • Memory-Wiping Crew: People who wipe the memories of those who might see through the Masquerade.
  • Mind Virus: An ailment similar to a computer virus that infects minds.
  • Missing Time: When a character has no memory of what happened between going to work and coming home.
  • My Art, My Memory: An amnesiac character who incorporates things from their past into their artwork.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: A character suddenly obtains so much knowledge that their mind is in danger of overloading.
  • Neural Implanting: Computer files, images, databases, or abilities are downloaded into a person's brain.
  • Neuro-Vault: A person subconsciously holding vital data in their minds.
  • Never-Forgotten Skill: A character learns a special skill and never forgets how to do it.
  • No Infantile Amnesia: A person is able to remember experiences from their infancy.
  • Note to Self: Leaving yourself a message in case you lose your memories.
  • NPC Amnesia: NPCs won't remember your actions for gameplay purposes.
  • Paralysis by Analysis: A person does something they're good at, only to suddenly choke from pressure.
  • Past-Life Memories: A character gains memories from their previous incarnation.
  • Photographic Memory: A person is able to remember every single detail of something they've only seen, read or heard once.
  • A Place Holds Memories: A character's memories are triggered by a certain location.
  • Protagonist Without a Past: A character with no backstory.
  • Quest for Identity: A character tries to rediscover who they are.
  • Recollection Sidequest: A video game sidequest where the player character has to regain lost memories.
  • Regained Memories Sequence: A character regains several memories at once.
  • Remembered I Could Fly: A character is in mortal danger until remembering that they have a special skill/ability that can help them.
  • Remembered Too Late: A character recalls something when it is too late to use said information.
  • Remember That You Trust Me: A character has to be reminded that they need to trust their friends.
  • Reminder Failure: A character's attempt at trying to remind themselves of something ends in failure.
  • Repeated Rehearsal Failure: A character's attempt at trying to memorize something by repeating it to themselves ends in failure.
  • Repressed Memories: A person subconsciously chooses to forget something that is too painful to remember.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: A character goes back in time and changes history, but they still remember the original timeline.
  • A Scar to Remember: A villain leaves a wound on the hero's body to make them remember their encounter.
  • Scatterbrained Senior: An elderly person with memory problems.
  • Secret Word: A word or phrase that you have to remember.
  • Selective Memory: When the Player Character has important information the player has no access to.
  • Self-Serving Memory: A person remembers past events as how they believed them to happen as opposed to how the events really occurred.
  • String-on-Finger Reminder: Someone ties a piece of string to their finger in an attempt to remind them of something they might forget.
  • Super Intelligence: Someone having extreme smarts as a superpower.
  • Too Important to Remember You: Someone rich or powerful can't be bothered to remember the names of their lessers.
  • Transferable Memory: Memories that can be processed like data.
  • Trauma Button: One character inadvertently triggers another character's repressed traumatic memory.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: A person develops amnesia as a result of physical or mental trauma.
  • Trigger Phrase: A phrase that can help someone remember something.
  • Victory-Guided Amnesia: A character accomplishes something only to lose their memories of it afterwards.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: A work of fiction reminds the audience of stuff that just happened shortly before as if the audience can't remember stuff well.
  • We Have Forgotten the Phlebotinum: A character forgets to bring Applied Phlebotinum to a situation where it would have been useful.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Someone regains consciousness after a night of being high or drunk and begins to panic while trying to remember what they did in their inebriated state.
  • Will Talk for a Price: When someone being questioned claims they can't remember—but a little bit of cash might jog their memory...
  • Wistful Amnesia: A character whose memories are wiped of certain events only to retain the sense that they've lost something.
  • You Remind Me of X: A character reminds another character of someone they know.
  • Your Worst Memory: A character relives the worst moment of their life in dreams, flashbacks or worse.