As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer.
When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story.
Description: People with photographic (also called eidetic) memories can recall with great accuracy objects, text, images, and scenes seen for a brief period of time. It is debated whether true photographic memories exist. While there are people with incredible recall, the extent to which this ability is often portrayed in movies and books is definitely beyond the norm.
Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: intense focus
Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, alert, curiosity, open-minded, self-controlled, calm, analytical
Required Resources and Training: Because photographic memories in the truest sense aren’t believed to exist, creative liberty can be taken as to how the ability forms and whether or not it can be honed. You might cite genetics, brain injury, the effects of medication, electrocution, or any number of other possibilities to explain your character’s gift.
However, it’s pretty well accepted that everyone’s memory can be improved. For tips on how your character can hone his gift, see the Resources below.
Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: Geniuses and savants are often portrayed as having photographic memories. Good cops and detectives also have near-perfect recall of details. The perception about photographic memories is that people with this gift can perfectly recall everything they’ve ever seen, even in moments when they weren’t particularly paying attention. They often describe their brains as being “cluttered.”
Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:
- In a society where there is no written word or way of recording events
- Witnessing pivotal events in history and being able to go forward in time and accurately report them
- When someone has lied about an important event
- To succeed in school
- When one must recall facts, statistics, and exact numbers
- In a debate or argument
- Navigation in confusing environments and avoiding getting lost
- Personal improvement (for work, a sporting activity, a pastime, or even for survival)
- Leadership (learning from past mistakes & analyzing information)
- Teaching or mentoring others
- Supplying facts and figures when needed, or bearing witness
- Adapting to change (using memory to navigate the dark) or dealing with the loss of a sense (blindness, for example)
- Gambling (counting cards)
Resources for Further Information:
You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.