1. AllThingsMagical
    Offline

    AllThingsMagical Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    1

    Flashbacks?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AllThingsMagical, Aug 23, 2011.

    So I've been working on this story for a little while now and I was thinking instead of having one character explain his past to another that flashbacks would probably make it more interesting. It does tie in well with the story too as the character spends a fair portion of his time thinking about and trying to rectify past mistakes. His present is still very much influenced by his past so it's necessary that his past is fully explained but I wanted to do it in stages - so like a few flashback chapters throughout the course of the novel.

    Anyway my question was simply what do you think about flashbacks? I personally really enjoy reading them but I read in a previous thread that they were a bit of a cop out and to be honest I don't really understand why.

    Any thoughts and comments - good or bad - would help. Thanks :)
     
  2. Steve89
    Offline

    Steve89 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Birmingham, England
    I'm using flashbacks in the novel I am writing at the moment, and I think it can work really well as long as it isn't every other chapter as I think it can be too much.

    I wouldn't worry about people telling you it is a cop out or that it isn't the "done thing". It depends on how you want to tell the story. Don't be afraid to do your own thing. As soon as you start doing what you are expected to do or following exact rules, you won't enjoy your writing and it would become bland and more of a chore.

    Just tell it how you want to.
     
  3. alexwebb
    Offline

    alexwebb Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2010
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Manchester
    I'm 90,000 words into a novel that is mostly flashbacks. Flashbacks galore. Then just when you think they're over, it turns out the whole thing is a flashback! actually that last bit isn't true, but there is a lot of flashbacks. But they keep the narrative going and explain the protagonists behaviour in the present day. Cop out? I don't think so, but it's a bit late for me to stop now.
     
  4. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Keep in mind there's a [huge] difference between a storyline that is broken up, so isn't chronological, and a flashback.

    Flashbacks are when, in the middle of action, the story pauses as the past is recounted. They're not bad because past-action is being presented, but because the story is pausing in the middle of action to present the past. It's the equivalent of a friend telling you a story and right before the climax he realizes he forgot some important information, so does one of those, oh, wait, I forgot to tell you about, sort of deals. Flashbacks should only exist if your character is literally going into a dream state or trance and experiencing the vision that is depicted, as that's then not even a flashback, but instead an in-the-moment vision. Meaning, flashbacks are always bad.

    Now, keep in mind, a character thinking about past events, even in vivid detail, isn't a flashback if it's in the context of the current action. Flashbacks are when the current action/moment is forgotten, and past events are depicted out of context (often to ironically provide context for a scene that the context just killed all flow and connection to).

    Non-chronological stories are simply those that aren't present in a chronological order. Want to alternate between chapters of present action and past action? Shrug. It's not really a flashback, but a break in action like any scene/chapter break. Just be sure to clearly establish the new time and place. Different from flashbacks, so has different pros and cons, mostly.

    The Hunter's Wife by Anthony Doerr is available for free online, and is a great example of how to handle a dual-timeline story (it's a short story, so good for study).
     
  5. Admin
    Offline

    Admin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    329
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Minnesota
    I think it would be a lot smoother if your character narrated the flash-back. He's telling the story, but it's much more vivid than just regular dialog. I actually have very little experience with flash-backs except with Choke by Palahniuk. He just used whole chapters to tell a scene from his childhood, and the character referred to himself as 'that kid' instead of 'I' or 'me'.
     
  6. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    I dislike flashbacks. I also dislike dream sequences, as a rule. And I hate prologues - let's get on with the story! :)
     
  7. AllThingsMagical
    Offline

    AllThingsMagical Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thanks guys. It's interesting see that some people seem to enjoy flashbacks and other hate them. I guess I'll put a little more thought into how to present it well.

    Just out of interest has anyone read any books that have presented flashbacks well? I'll be sure to check out The Hunter's Wife - thanks popsicledeath - but I find it's always good to compare. :)
     
  8. Steve89
    Offline

    Steve89 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Birmingham, England
    I don't know if they can be classed as flashbacks but Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin is told through letters which tell the brunt of the story by talking about past events. It helps the character to show how she got to where she is at the point of writing the letters and it is done really well.
     

Share This Page