Some memories we hold on to with such fondness that they gain a saintly status over time. Likewise, parts of our past we’d rather not be reminded of increase in regret to the point we lock them away. Sometimes we actually forget they exist. Until a memory surfaces as in a jolt and we’re forced to acknowledge them.
The very proper and fastidious butler Mr. Carson, in the BBC series Downton Abbey, crashes into his past face to face as an old acquaintance forces his way into Carson’s life. It also shows the social atmosphere now shifting that this charlatan would actually dare enter the estate, especially by the front door. But he is made bold by Carson’s own fears and attempts to keep him quiet from exposing his previous life as an entertainer.
Faithful to ‘his’ family and the position he holds, Carson sees only the possibility of disgrace and loss. In fact, he offers his resignation when all comes to light. Fortunately his employer sees through the blackmail. He also recognizes Carson’s longtime service to the family and sets that commitment as more valuable that Carson’s previous life. Although mildly amused at the concept of Carson in show business, he does not give the situation the weight of shame that Carson himself has. Now Carson is able to see his own memories with a different perspective and interpretation. And yet, his initial concern would have been completely accurate had the Dowager been in charge. She would have immediately dismissed him without even a hearing.
Make a list of activities your character participated in when young. Choose one that could become an embarrassment for her if told in her workplace, or publicly at a social function. Make the teller someone who is putting a sinister or shameful twist on her participation. What does she stand to lose if the story is accepted at face value?