Talents and Skills Entry: Photographic Memory

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…

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: intense focus

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, alert, curiosity, open-minded…

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…

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…

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…

Resources for Further Information:

The Mind Palace Technique for Improving Memory

Memory Techniques

9 Types of Mnemonics For Better Recall 

20 Memory Ticks You’ll Never Forget

Talents and skills not only make our characters stand out, they often help them attain their goals. So choosing them strategically can greatly enhance both the character and the story.

If this is something you’d like to learn more about, you can find the entries in their entirety at One Stop For Writers, where all our thesauruses are cross-referenced and linked for easy navigation. If you’re interested in seeing a free sampling of the Talent and Skill Thesaurus and our other descriptive collections, head on over and register at One Stop!


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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3 years ago

I can remember many things in perfect clarity as if I’m looking at a picture. Does this mean I have a photographic memory? I thought that’s how everyone remembers things.

3 years ago
Reply to  TARS

I think people have varying degrees of recall, but you definitely sound like one of a kind!

5 years ago

It’s going to be finish of mine day, however before end I am reading this wonderful article to increase my know-how.


[…] Read more here!  […]


[…] we all know this. Giving them skills can help create depth. Becca Puglisi discusses the talent of photographic memory, Lt. Matthew Sherley talks the art of hostage negotiation, and Janice Hardy recommends giving your […]

Allen Parker
Allen Parker
6 years ago

Good post, but the tv series Criminal Minds has used this for years. Might sound derivative if you use it.

Julie Musil
6 years ago

Cool details about this trait. I’d be a terrible witness. I can’t remember a darn thing.

:Donna Marie
6 years ago

This is definitely a great skill to point out! I’m very visual, but my recall/memory can be faulty, so “photographic”? Nah! Would LOVE it though! I’m sure my artwork would improve, too 🙂 lol Thanks for the post, Becca!

6 years ago

I’ve heard it suggested (and I don’t remember where, hah ha) that in theory, everything we’ve experienced, ever, exists somewhere in our brains, but the problem is our retrieval system.

Something I’ve also found interesting is I have one or two images that are so vivid in my mind that I call them memories, but are apparently things that never actually happened. Very odd.

Traci Kenworth
6 years ago

This would be a great trait to have!!