Memories can be quite elusive when it comes to recognizing their truths. We tend to look at them through filtered lenses, rose-colored for positive and shaded for negative, automatically changing their initial reality and impact.
But our sensory memories don’t cloud the recall. Whether we appreciate them or not, just a brief taste, or fragrance, or sound can catapult us in an instant. Or, at the least, we have an emotional reaction to the input and don’t know quite why. And the senses sharpen the pleasure or the pain, even when we try to forget.
In the historical romance “A Memory Between Us,” by Sarah Sundin, army nurse Lieutenant Ruth Doherty remembers her past well. In fact, so well, that she has built a protective emotional barrier around herself to keep it locked up. She stays focused and stays professional. And if it should try to derail her, she turns to well-honed defense mechanisms to lock it back.
But eventually she takes a step towards love, accepts a kiss for a brief moment of yearning and then the sensory memory attacks, robbing her of present happiness, and skidding her backwards.
“His breath stank of beer and sausage. He ground the broken watch glass into her wrist, ground the truth into her head: ‘You’ll never get rid of me. You’ll always see my face.’”
And so she runs, convinced she will never be freed from the pain.
Make a sensory list for your character. From each category choose her most favorite memory, and her most horrible memory. Which one is the most dramatic, or the most humorous? Look for a place in one of your scenes to use this memory to create friction with another character.