How A Flashbulb Memory Can Help You Define Your Memoir

How A Flashbulb Memory Can Help You Define Your Memoir


If you’re writing a memoir, you will have moments that stand out in your mind. In this post, we discuss how a flashbulb memory can help you define your memoir.

‘As you start to write at once the question begins to insist: Why do you remember this and not that? Why do you remember in every detail a whole week, month, more, of a long ago year, but then complete dark, a blank? How do you know that what you remember is more important than what you don’t?’ ~Doris Lessing

What Is A Flashbulb Memory?

According to Wikipedia: ‘A flashbulb memory is a highly detailed, exceptionally vivid ‘snapshot’ of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard.’

These memories are so vivid and entrenched because they are of personal importance, have consequences, are filled with emotion, and have an element of surprise.

According to Roger Kulk & James Brown, who originated the term, flashbulb memories have six characteristic features.

These are: place, ongoing activity, informant, own effect, other effect, and aftermath.

People remember events like 9/11 or Princess Diana’s death. And they clearly remember where they were (place), what they were doing (ongoing activity), who told them (informant), how they felt about it (own effect), how it affected them and the people around them (other effect), and what was the aftermath (aftermath).

How A Flashbulb Memory Can Help You Define Your Memoir

If you are writing a memoir, you probably have at least one of these flashbulb memories concerning the moment you knew you wanted to, or had to, write your story.

It is a memory that is so vivid that it is imprinted in your mind and your senses.

Use the six characteristics of a flashbulb memory to test if your memories are strong enough to warrant a memoir:

  1. Place
  2. Activity
  3. Informant
  4. Emotion (own effect)
  5. Emotions of others (other effect)
  6. Aftermath

Free write using these points to see how much you remember. The flashbulb memories can even help you narrow down and define your story’s theme.

If you want to learn how to write a memoir, join our Secrets of a Memoirist course.

© Amanda Patterson

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