1. nuwriter*me
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    nuwriter*me Member

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    Flashbacks, parallel stories*******

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by nuwriter*me, Apr 30, 2011.

    I am working on two characters who will tell their stories. One is current, the other is in the past. I want to past to become the prominant story, but obviously directing the reader to the past. How do you move, structurally, from the present to the past? I need to learn to segue. Do you just begin a new chapter, and hope your reader does not get annoyed by the abrupt transition, and by their need to concentrate on the new turn? Or is their some method which makes it easier?

    Thanks for the tips to come
     
  2. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Establish each storyline as you would any (with enough context and grounding to get it rolling), and then use scene or chapter breaks when you switch between the two characters, and establish each scene as you would any (with enough context and grounding to get it rolling).

    A scene/chapter break (traditionally) lets the reader know there's been some change in time, place, or POV. A scene/chapter break and conscious grounding in a new scene is usually enough to avoid confusion.
     
  3. JustTonight
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    JustTonight New Member

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    My noval sort of has the same problem later in the story, so I thought about it a lot and a book that really helped me decide is "shiver" by maggie stiefvater... She has two main characters and sometimes the story is from the FMC's POV and sometime's from the MMC's POV and the way she tells the readers which one it is, is by just naming the chapters after the character. Each time she switches characters she starts a new chapter even if it's a few pages later... so that's what I'm doing.

    For example in my book it's the same character but in two different lifetimes. So when it's in the present I name the chapters "Alex" and when it's in the past I name them "Alexandra"...
     
  4. nuwriter*me
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    nuwriter*me Member

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    Thank you for those responses. I will work around with the ideas and see which one(s) work the best.
     
  5. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Hi,

    I'm currently working on a flashback story in which the main story is taking place in the past. I did research on how to properly do this, and some of the things I have learned is often times, stories that move chronologically in in both time-lines for the most part work better than having your "flashes" shift back and froth from past to future.

    Another thing is to pay attention to how you transition into a flash. Often times it is a feeling or something that triggers a flash in a person that leads into your flash. Don't say "and this is what happened." and go into to your flash... you need a proper transition and most writers don't work to fully learn how to do this because it is hard and instead separate by chapters or by other means. Which isn't bad per-say, but risking having the reader feel jarred by the sudden shifts instead of the writing piece moving smoothly from one time-line to the next.

    Also remember that you can't have a flashback inside a flashback, nor memories inside flashbacks (though that rule may be bendable but it's could cause confusion).

    There are many ways to structurally write flashback stories. If you start out with a flashback from the very beginning of the story like the book "Kite Runner,"

    It is called an external analepsis, which starts before the narrative of a story.

    An internal analepsis takes you back in time from the narrative... meaning, you are narrating the story and then progressing the story with a flashback.

    And then, there is also the Racconto which doesn't take you back in time so suddenly or so dramatically. And the falshabcks are more detailed, developed, and longer than a regular flashabck.

    Also, you can use a device to lead to your story. Examples of this is the notebook in the "Notebook," by Nicholas Sparks... or the Pensieve in Harry Potter by J.K Rowling.

    In my story, I'm narrating the story in first person POV through out the novel but using Raccanoto to do my flashbacks in third person.

    So far it is working, but the hardest part I am having trouble with is my third person tone. The story follows two main characters, but in the beginning there are other side characters that are crucial. Staring one flash with a certain tone and then going into my first person narrative has worked better than I thought and I'm so proud of it. But then starting the next flash again in third person but starting with a different character, I feel my tone has shifted and I as a writer feel that the shift in tone is too jarring and I'm trying to figure out a way in how to make most of my third person tone the same through out the story so that I'm only really switching naturally from two points of view. It's difficult because each flash back is written in character perspective and switching from one character to another (even in third person) is hard because each character has their own "voice." Eventually, my story focus will be on two main characters but in the beginning,I need these side characters for the first parts and having to switch from them to my MC is proving difficult.

    If anyone has advice on this too, I'd be grateful. Or even examples.

    Anyway, here are a list of books that use flashbacks as a means to tell the story and it might help if you read and see how they did it.

    The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Wilder, Thornton

    Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut, Kurt

    A Prayer for Owen Meany by Irving, John

    The Remains of the Day by Ishiguro, Kazuo

    Beloved by Morrison, Toni

    The Quiet American by Greene, Graham

    Sophie's Choice by Styron, William
     

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