A pencil and a notepad

Story Notes: Doors to the Past

Author’s Note
This post concerns plot points and characters for Doors to the Past, a multi-generational drama set in the near-future. The story is unfinished, but two chapters are available in a separate post. My friend Andrew and I began writing the story—and these notes—for NaNoWriMo 2020.

We’ve heard about false memories and edited memories, erasing memories too. But what about extracting memories and packaging them for education? Imagine virtual reality as the ultimate commodity: a slice of someone else’s life? Once consumed, it is a part of you. Not stolen memories, reappropriated memories. Saving the memories of the dead so that they can live on in others. Immortality for the purpose of teaching the next generation.

Core ideas

  • Our grandparents have wisdom that we do not; they also have unique life experiences
  • Grandchildren don’t have much in common with their grandparents; they may only perceive grandpa and grandma as the gatekeepers to toys, candy, and staying up late
  • Is it okay for the government and corporations to preserve memories through morally grey advances in technology and medicine? As 21st century society becomes more technologically advanced, the tradition of passing on wisdom and understanding from one generation to the next begins to fade. Technology and medicine become numbing agents to our most fundamental, timeless need for connection and perspective.

Core questions

  • A great divide exists between grandparents and their grandchildren. Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. What wisdom could a grandparent impart to his or her grandchild?
  • As technology advances, it makes life easier for us. More convenient. But does it make life better? What are some activities or lifestyle pursuits that are more rewarding, more satisfying when we do them ourselves? What is lost in the pursuit of convenience?
  • Old age would not be so daunting if we could keep our physical and mental strength. If a grandfather could run laps around his grandson, what kind of friendship could blossom? Would that be enough to bridge the generation gap? Would old people listen to pop music? Would young people dig listening to rock ‘n’ roll?
  • Today’s youth, at least in the US, have more opportunity for learning than ever before. Perhaps K-12 education will eventually shift to an all-digital format. When information is available to everyone, who will the teachers be? Will education become like a sporting event where your favorite player (teacher) gets the most likes, the most views?
  • Virtual realty. If wisdom is the application of knowledge gained by life experience, then what is the value of wisdom in a society that lives virtually? Will people stop interacting with one another in person? Will the convenience of FaceTime, Google Meet, and Zoom replace traditional interaction? Will smalltalk disappear?
  • What role will the government play in the future? Will Medicaid and Medicare exist? Will some new program be developed that places seniors in resting homes funded by taxpayer dollars?
  • How does a son or daughter make the decision to send mom or dad to the resting home? When is the right time? What are the right reasons? Why can’t a mom or dad live with their children into old age? Social stigma? Too much friction about how the home is run? Bad blood between the parents? Wildly different lifestyles and/or values?


Robert Gabriel “Gabe” Parkhurst, 71
Our protagonist. Not much is known about him. We discover bits and pieces as Grant does.

Grant Parkhurst, 19
A freshman at Clarendon University, Oregon. Psych 101 is a prerequisite class for his AA degree. Unsure about his career path but leaning toward communications and more specifically journalism. He’s an avid reader of anything he gets his hands on. Novels, magazines, comic books. Media and messaging is important to him. He’s suspicious by nature and not quick to trust anyone. Judgmental. Although contemplative and naturally soft-spoken, Grant is not shy. He boldly speaks his mind on topics that interest him, or when he has formed an opinion on something. Not immediately likeable. He has low expectations of others.

William “Bill” Parkhurst, 44
This is Grant’s father. He is a supporting character. He represents the fast lane of the outside world, always thinking about the future and looking over the shoulder at where he came from, wondering if he could have done better.

Lloyd Tripp, 20
Lloyd is a classmate in Psych 101. He’s a big fan of Pink Floyd, as revealed by his t-shirt. Beatles. Led Zeppelin. He doesn’t know it yet, but he and Grant are going to become good friends. Music is Lloyd’s life. He has been working a little, studying a little, and partying a lot. Allegedly a music major but he has yet to apply to the program. So far, he’s been taking classes based on whether or not they “feel right,” meaning he may never actually graduate. He has a lot of growing up to do. He’s in a “band” with his two younger brothers. They call themselves Triploid (Lloyd’s full name backward).

Miriam “Miri” Hill, 20
Studying to become a physical therapist. Minoring in nutrition. Works part-time on campus grading papers for a pool of professors, one of whom is Dr. Tildequist. Miriam took psychology last year and loved it. Describes herself as an A-type personality. Her drive to succeed leaves little room for a social life, and at times she regrets having neglected her relationships. She’s single and would be open to having a boyfriend if she could slow down long enough to invest in one.

Dana Morita, 22
She’s only taking Psych 101 because she’s a few credits shy. This is her senior year. Talking to freshman is beneath her. Lloyd doesn’t take the hint and continually tries to get her attention. She loathes his existence. She’s ambivalent about Grant.

Adam Browning, 20
Grant’s former childhood friend who decided not to pursue college. He’s a “mechanic,” according to him. He changes oil and tires at Jiffy Lube. Their friendship is hit or miss lately due to the busyness of life.

Dr. Laurel Tildequist, 47
Grant’s psychology teacher and an accomplished neurologist. She spends her off-campus time conducting research into new methods of memory retention, which is a passion project funded by the government.

The Nursing Assistant (abbreviated TNA or Tina)
A real person or possibly an artificial humanoid responsible for day-to-day care of dozens of seniors. Tina is overworked and cannot dedicate much time to any one senior.

Ideas Discussed Over Breakfast

Grandpa is having a difficult time letting go of the past. Coming to terms with his old age? Through the eyes of his grandson, he will learn to see the value of his experiences, his struggles, which means he’ll find joy and fulfillment in passing on his experience to his grandson, the next generation.

Dad is a middle-aged man who has achieved a lot of what he set out to get in his youth, but he feels like he’s come up short somehow. He can feel it, but he can’t discern it. He put his father in the assisted living facility because the last thing he wanted was having his father around to judge him and make him feel like he’s not enough. He doesn’t know how to deal with his own son; he doesn’t know what he has to offer. Deep down, he’s still the scared teenager he once was. He sees so much of himself in his son, a young man burdened with questions and starving for answers. What really bothers him is he’s still asking the same questions.

Grandson is fearful of the future, uncertain of what he has to look forward to as he gets older. He’s learning to handle things on his own. He wants to be independent, which comes across as being overly confident, and perhaps with a pinch of arrogance.

At the university where the grandson is taking extra credits to advance his education, a class is being taught that focuses on the science of memory extraction. Dementia remains one of the top concerns of families taking care of their elderly. Specialists are now developing a mixed method of technology and medicine for memory preservation, extracting key memories from the human brain before symptoms of dementia set in; they store the information for families and corporate research. This is not meant to be conspiratorial, but rather a breach into fringe science that top brass believe requires a degree of discretion.

With all parties involved, including the proper authorities, the entire “system” is rigged to keep this research from surfacing. Any attempt by the grandson and his father, who may come around later in the story to help protect grandpa, kind of like how Lando had a change of heart when it came to helping his friends after being betrayed by Vader, to expose this secret research gets blocked by the authorities they’d go to for justice).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *