Memories. In a story they serve many purposes. Often they’re backstory, but if presented just right they work as mysteries. They can also be a window into a character’s heart, mind, and soul. There’s another aspect, though. As I’ve advanced in my Carrdia series I’ve learned how they can pull the reader deeper into the story.
Look at it this way. When an event occurs in a book who’s there? The characters, of course, but there’s a silent participant: the reader.
In Bk1, Trust in the Forgotten, the lone POV belongs to Riparia. There are moments when she recalls events from a past before the book, events the reader is hearing about for the first time. When we think of a character’s memories, such instances are often what comes to mind.
Later in the novel, though, there are moments she recalls from earlier in the book. Since the reader witnessed those incidents the memory is enhanced.
One possibility is she remembers/shares the moment accurately, but she could also be wrong. Has she skewed the memory to suit her purposes? Did emotions in the past color the memory at the outset? Are emotions coloring it in the present?
Since the reader shares the memory, they know if she’s skewing the past. Right along with Riparia they might smile or cringe at her accuracy and honesty, or do the same at her self-deception.
This reader immersion grows greater with each succeeding book. The nostalgic tug on our hearts that comes with older memories works on the reader over time. Of course, this is assuming the moment was written well in the first place and is therefore memorable.
I’m also assuming the reader has read the novels that preceded it. If not, then there’s the hope that characters sharing such moments will entice the reader to read the earlier works. When my characters reminisce about moments from earlier books I typically divulge the bare minimum. I don’t want to rehash more than necessary and, yes, it’s a lure to stir interest.
I had the opportunity to see this lure in action, first with Riparia, and then with myself.
In Bk2, A River in Each Hand, Riparia travels with four people who have a shared, hostile past (later detailed in the Prequel). For Riparia, it’s both ironic and frustrating that the bad feelings among them is paired with cooperation. They refuse to talk about the old events, thus thwarting her efforts to understand what happened.
At the time I wrote Bk2 I didn’t know all the details. My curiosity then drove me to write the backstory. In the end, that backstory became its own novel (with twists not revealed in Bk2).
So long as they aren’t abused as information dumps or ill-placed flashbacks, memories can pull the reader in, making observers willing participants.