1. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    First chapter flashback

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mickaneso, Nov 3, 2012.

    Is it a bad to introduce your book with scenes taking place years before the main conflict of your story? I want to show the scenes because I really want to put more power behind my MCs desire. I know that ideally you want to throw little fragments of background information in the story naturally and as briefly as possible, but I just want to have a real strong power right from the beginning behind my characters motivations. I haven't read a novel that does this (or if I have I forget now) but two movies that have done it well are Braveheart and Batman Begins, but obviously movies are completely different. So that's my question, is it a good or a bad idea to do 1-3 chapters in my characters past and then do a time skip to present day. Are there any alternatives?
     
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If done well, I don't see why not - plenty of novels do massive time lapses. You might consider writing a prologue, since the flashback is not really chapter one, but you'll hear plenty of debate over prologues - it's a difficult one that one!
     
  3. mickaneso
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    mickaneso Member

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    A lot of the advice I've had is to steer away from prologues, but some great novels include prologues so it's probably down to personal preference. Would a character's past seem too much like a prologue? It seems a lot of people dislike or skip prologues because they're usually historical background, an overarching conflict or a world building lesson. I'm wondering if my introduction is more about character than anything else will it still annoy the prologue haters? (Sorry for my constant questions, I have a lot of them! Haha)
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm not crazy about prologues myself - but I'm actually thinking of adding one to my story
    go-figger! lol! I'm warming up to them.
    I think sometimes prologues are necessary. And I've read many books that have
    them and a prologue has never stopped me from loving a story or had me thinking
    well, it would have been perfect if it wasn't for that prologue. :)

    I think the reason I've disliked them and skimmed or skipped them - is I felt
    the information could've been dished out later, or it was frills - Do I really need
    all this information about the war when I'm reading a juicy romance with a
    hunk on the cover?

    I've seen what you're talking about done in Nabokov's Lolita - the anti-hero
    Hum starts in the present - to get the reader set up for what the book's about - his obsession.
    It's about one paragraph setting the tone.
    Then he goes backwards with a childhood event that sparks off why he becomes a pedophile
    ( or why he justifys it ) , but it's a few chapters before he even meets Lo which is what the
    books about. It works - but than again - He's Nabokov. Like Mckk said - if it's done well nobody
    will mind.
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Broadly speaking, it's been over done.

    The biggest thing for me as a writer is to flatter the readers' intelligence. I make an effort to only jump into the narration very subtly if need be to influence the way my readers feel. What it sounds like to me is your prologue will open the book with a well written chapter once all edited etc, and will say "here is how you must feel from now until the end."

    I'm not sure it's that good of an idea. As far as structurally and figuratively, sure, it would make readers understand the character's motivations better. But what if you had the character go about the story with the readers wanting some kind of reason for this motivation, almost as a suspense, and bit by bit you give them information about this past through subplots and dialogue. Like a reward for sticking with it.

    I'm not saying your idea is wrong. There is no right or wrong. But if you give it more thought, perhaps you can come up with a more unique way to implement this past, and maybe not reveal it all at once right at the beginning. Let readers have their own opinion on what's happening, and interject at the right times. My opinion.
     
  6. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    My only problem with flashbacks in C1, is that unless you are already established, this could detract from the motivation to read more. Of course, it could also do the opposite, create such interest the reader wants the entire project.

    I am concerned with publishing. In my brief experience, agents and publishers want to see chapter one, and you need to sell them on the ms. Consider how they will be affected, and will a flashback instill desire to request more, or disrupt the flow?
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A first chapter flashback does not have to be a prologue. A prologue is usually a scene setter, and at another time was considered perfectly okay. Now, it isn't. Styles of writing come and go.

    These days, I am guided by the concept of what the reader needs to understand the story. If the flashback helps, use it, regardless of chapter. If it doesn't, don't.

    Most basic advice: write it and see how it reads. That's how you will decide that the time is right to break a rule. Or not.
     
  8. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I have seen it done on TV shows and movies. Often they might start with the character in a flashback of their childhood.

    Personally I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't write a prologue either. Mostly because I never read prologues so why should I make my reader wade through one. I think it could take away from a potential hook in your first chapter.

    Do you think publishers request prologues to be written?
     
  9. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    I think the only time prologues work is when something happened in the past that affects the present day story. This is effective when the story is written in first person but something occurred in the past or another location that the MC could not possibly know.
     

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