Tags:
  1. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6

    Flashbacks

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Cheyenne, Mar 9, 2015.

    I hate flashbacks with a fire-y burning passion. Oh, not reading them, but writing them. They always feel unnatural and contrived. They never seem to fit. However, sometimes I have information that is needed, but isn't enough for it's own scene, so... flashback is the easiest way to give it.

    Normally I avoid them like the plague.

    But my question is.... how do you write them? Do you jam them in? Low-ball them? How do you build up to them, then bring the reader back out without jarring them too much or interrupting the flow of the story?
     
  2. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Hehe. My recent work is like 45% flashback.

    For a moment I had that problem. The solution I found is more in the paragraphs right before the flash back. I found by making it leading to the flash back the transition is a lot more natural. Like the person who is having a flashback is thinking back to something and if you show it right the reader my then want to know what it is. That way you avoid the reader not caring and wanting to skip it.

    Does that help?
     
    Commandante Lemming likes this.
  3. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    Kind of. That's similar to what I just did in my scene I was working on. It still seems ham-handed, though. Ah well. I'll probably wait to hear back from beta readers about it.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Are you sure there's no way to bring the backstory in without one? And does the story need that backstory? Don't be afraid to chuck it if it turns out you don't need it.

    A flashback brings a whole scene or chapter from the past into the story. If you need the whole chapter or scene, just write it as if there was no shift in time, then decide how you want to introduce it after it's written. Does it fit better as a prologue? If it is one flashback it might. If it is several or many, write both current and past chapters out then decide how to merge them.
     
  5. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    It's not backstory per se, it's part of the story, just not enough for a full scene on it's own. Basically information given to MC from another Character that the scene wouldn't make sense without.

    Does that make sense?
     
  6. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    No. We don't have enough context. We have to relay on your word that the scene can only be played out the way you are trying to do it. If we knew more we might be able to make alternate suggestions. Know what I mean?
     
  7. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    Hrm... Alright.

    Context.

    MC= Sparrow. (Note: Magic plays heavily into this book) Antagonist= Emperor (ruler and tyrant).
    In the scene, Sparrow is reading the surface thoughts of Magicians (Emperor's government-ish/thing) as they are leaving one of the government buildings for the day. However, the only way she is able to do this is via a stone given to her by another character. At the beginning of the scene is this bit: (I hope posting this doesn't bend or break any rules.)

    That's all the flashback is. Not a full scene. Not even half a scene. (My scene's tend to run around 1k words).
     
  8. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Yes, makes perfect sense. Find another way to reveal it, a letter, one character telling another about it, something like that.

    If the key is just where and what information one character now has, it doesn't sound like it needs a scene. If there was something in the scene in addition to the information, then you might need the scene.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Can she have a brief recollection of the other character, like she picks up the stone and thinks, thank you kelli, or something like that.

    I don't think so unless you were posting it to ask for critique.
     
  10. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Agreeing with ginger here the fact the stone has magic or is rare. How does this need a scene? Something that short could be done as internal monologue as they think to about the situation while waiting to find the target. Not only that it is a magical world. Why do we need context? Magic exist. You don't need to spell out how and the limitations of it before hand. If you are worried about deus ex machine than think of it this way. Have the reveal be at the moment people would call that. Let me explain.

    If the idea is that it is rare and you want the audience to know that then don't say it. Let the reader be wrong and let another character discover this magic and call bullshit. Then explain it. Let the reader go. "Oh crap, if that is true then that means!"

    All and all something that short can be done in dialogue, either telling someone else or just thinking about it.

    Hope that helps
     
  11. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    It's a bit more than that, (as evidenced in the scene) but not much more. If it had been addressed before that she could use these stones, it would be something like that. But this is the first time it's addressed that she can, when she really shouldn't.

    It's also quite important information to know, because it comes into play later. Multiple times.

    However, this is only draft one, so I may add that info into another scene earlier in order to achieve the same thing.
     
  12. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    I will address this now. It needs to be spelled out because Sparrow should NOT be able to use the stone-stored magic. Because thats not how magic works on her world. It comes from a pair of twins that magically (instead of scientifically) traveled from their home dimension/world and onto this one.

    On Sparrow's world, the world the story takes place on. Magic is bound with the soul. It's inherent.
     
  13. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    That is better in terms of context. Though the scene you showed didn't address this. lol. My counter point is the same. I think you should ignore the fact she can't do it at first. Let the audience dwell in that for a moment before you reveal she shouldn't be able to do it. Let the audience question how she can.

    The best way is foreshadow. Have the answer somewhere that is not obvious. Don't show it in a way that makes it easy. Establish this alternate dimension concept in some other way that doesn't link it to the stones. Then eventually have someone call bullshit on the stones.

    See then a reveal doesn't need to be a flashback it is a current event. And if a reader remembers the other scenes then they will go. "Damn! I should have known!"

    This really doesn't require a flashback it requires in my opinion foreshadowing.
     
  14. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    Honestly it's explained when I introduce the Twins that the magic of their's is different from the magic of this world, because the characters question. Not to mention, it's hinted that they're from a different world due to what two character's overhear of their conversation before they even "meet."

    The way this story progresses, it's not practical to keep that hidden, even from the reader. And honestly, while it is confusing, it's not that big of a deal that she can use the stones. (although I do need to come up with a viable reason.)
     
  15. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    Lol.
    So recap
    Flashback is worthless because it is not explaining the thing it needs to explain.

    Do you have a reason? I thought you were looking for a reason to show it and not the actually reason.

    Also on deus ex machina if the explanation doesn't show itself until after the event it is going to feel like that. Foreshadowing is the only way to stop deus ex machina
     
  16. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    Feck!

    You have a point. The question now becomes, when do they find out she can use the stones? And how? Lord love a duck.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Still sounds like something that could be revealed with internal monologue. Or earlier on, have her explain/reveal this power to someone else.
     
  18. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    I don't do a lot of internal monologue. Honestly, I just don't like it, it too easily breaks the flow of the narrative. I'm writing Third Person Limited so my "internal monolgue" is in the way it's written. The characters feelings and thoughts are in the narrative.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    And you can't include thoughts about this power, why?

    I think you are too focused on telling this backstory bit by a flashback. If you don't want options, go back to square one. Write the scene, figure out how to blend it into the story after it is written.
     
  20. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    You need to work harder on weaving important background information into the storyline. Constant short flashbacks to explain something are no better than data dumps in the present. Find ways to explain how things work or why they work that way that fall naturally in the present narrative. It is harder than making what are in effect little asides, but it is a skill you need to develop.

    Flashbacks work well in certain story forms where entire scenes or events from the past are integral to the way the story unfolds, especially stories that are effectively two narratives, one in the past and one in the present are being told at the same time.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  21. Cheyenne
    Offline

    Cheyenne Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    6
    Your first point. I really don't think you can make that observation at this point, honestly you know nothing about my writing. (I mean no disrespect, simply stating a fact.)

    Second, I agree wholeheartedly. That's why I DON'T have constant flashbacks. If you read my parent post, you'll see that I HATE flashbacks, and rarely use them. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the ONLY flashback in the story so far.
     
  22. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,243
    Likes Received:
    1,001
    I've been using flashbacks as breaks to cover awkward time jumps to smooth my flow (granted I've only done this once but I'm building up to do it again and liking results), and my tactic has been to lead in with falling action that involves the character having the flashback - them in a calm scene where they have time to get thoughtful about whatever it is you're about to show the audience. This helped in that the flashback didn't bring my tension to a screeching halt, because I'd already pumped the brakes a bit. And then I faded out by starting the next scene with something that shows the results of what happened (In my case the flashback was the MC's older sister getting in a big fight that resulted in her breaking with the family eight years before the action - I led in with the MC talking with her uncle about the last time the uncle saw the sister, then after the flashback flashed forward with the MC getting a text from her sister-in-law - who you met as her brother's girlfriend in the flashback - showing that the two have become extremely close and that the sister-in-law has replaced the older sister in the family structure).
     
  23. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,243
    Likes Received:
    1,001
    Looking at the actual scene you're not doing a "flashback" so much as the character is actively having a memory - which is an action that's part of their internal monologue in the present. I'll agree with everyone else who said there may be better ways to give the reader the info, but if your POV character is desperately trying to remember something, that can be integrated into their own internal monologue without a ton of buildup like you would need if your flashback is scene or chapter length.

    I don't know your story obviously, but with the little bit of text you submitted, you have a memory gateway already written in with her reaching for the stone. You can tweak her internal monologue a bit while she's reaching to the effect of

    "She reached for the stone in her pocket. Darell had told her to use it sparingly, but this seemed like a desperate time if there eve was one. What was it he'd said again? (Insert flashback info)"

    That might be a bit heavy handed, and probably doesn't fit your actual details - but you get the idea. If she's remembering in the present tense, the memory can integrated into her internal monologue with stops, starts, her own commentary, etc. That way it's not a scene in itself but just part of her racing thoughts (that still drop the info).
     
  24. Siena
    Offline

    Siena Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    51
    I don't go for this "flashbacks jarr the story or take you out of it."

    Just write them as and when needed.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  25. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Even when they do take you out of the current story, sometimes that's not a bad thing. A lot of stories do that even without flashbacks. The Poisonwood Bible, for example, tells the story through different characters' POVs. They are in essence different but related stories.

    When a story changes to a new scene, how is that different?
     

Share This Page