September 18, 2009

Amnesia or Sleepwalking....or what did I do?

If you picked up almost any novel in the early 1990's, about half of them would have a theme connected in some way to amnesia. It could be the main character or a supporting character. Either way, that theme and topic flooded the market for a brief period of time. So much so, that once the phase passed, editors wouldn't even touch a novel that mentioned the word let alone had it as a plot element.

It's a good thing that isn't the case today. I've read some amazing novels in recent years where one character suffered from some form of amnesia and loved how the author brought the story around.

One of my books that I have circulating, trying to sell, involves the heroine suffering from a case of amnesia, but over 100 years ago, it was quite a bit different than we view it today. In fact, although the term dates back to the 1600's, there weren't a whole lot of doctors who diagnosed it as such until the late 1800's. When I discovered this, it took my story in a turn for the better....and more entertaining. :)

What I discovered in most of the smaller towns or further out west in the more unsettled areas, the average doctor didn't encounter many cases of this. So, being unfamiliar with how to diagnose or treat a patient suffering from it, they did one of the only things they could do. They compared it to what they *did* know.

And that was sleepwalking.

Quite often, sleepwalkers act and speak in ways that are foreign to their normal behavior patterns or personalities. Then, when they wake up, they have no recollection of what they did. In many ways, they suffer memory loss.

In addition, most believed that you should never awaken a sleepwalker for fear that you might separate their mind from their body and cause the person to suffer far greater maladies than whatever is causing them to behave this way. From medical books of the time period of my story, there are many documented cases exactly like this.

So, when a doctor was faced with a patient suffering from amnesia due to a traumatic experience, an injury or any other cause, that doctor might caution those who know the patient to tread lightly. Such is the case in my story. My heroine is a prim and proper lady from Philadelphia who escaped an arranged marriage and fled east, then married a successful cattle baron in Wyoming. While journeying by train to visit her uncle, her train is robbed and an explosion causes her to lose her memory.

Traveling on the same train is a young woman fleeing from an abusive marriage and coming to take a job as a barmaid in a saloon. A case of mistaken identity has my heroine working as that barmaid while news of her death is sent back home to her husband. When her foreman finds her, he can't believe his eyes. He'd always held a torch for her, and now he has his chance! Once her husband finds out, the town doctor issues the warning that he shouldn't reveal his identity to his wife for fear that further harm than good could result.

And so the story continues... :)

As you can see, time *does* make a difference in medical discoveries, treatments, and diagnoses. In the case of my story, this discovery added a whole new dimension that made the writing of it a whole lot of fun!

Tiffany Amber Stockton is an author, online marketing specialist and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author in beautiful Colorado Springs. They celebrated the birth of their first child in April and have a vivacious puppy named Roxie, a Border Collie/Flat-Haired Retriever mix. She has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing. Other credits include writing articles for various publications, five short stories with Romancing the Christian Heart, and contributions to the books: 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage and Grit for the Oyster.

Read more about her at her web site:

1 comment:

Stephen Bly said...

Amber: Fascinating way to form a plot from historical details...enjoyed your article very much!