1. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    How do people feel about using flashbacks?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Inspired writer, Feb 4, 2012.

    Do you think flashbacks are, well, a bit of a cliche when telling the story even if it could tie in with character development?
     
  2. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    No, I don't think they're inherently cliche. Maybe they are used a lot, but I don't think that makes them bad. I've read flashbacks that enhanced a story.

    They're only cliche if they're written that way.
     
  3. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    Was considering starting my sci-fi submission with one. I'm not sure if I'm gonna manage to finish it in time. Unfortunate really. Might just submit in the review room and see what people think.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Use but don't overuse. You should have a good reason for using any literary device. My current project starts in the present day, then goes back to about 1960 and gradually works its way back to the present. There isn't any other way to tell the story as well.
     
  5. Backbiter
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    Backbiter Contributing Member

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    I agree with both joanna and Ed. It really depends on how well you use them. If there is a viable reason to use a flashback and it is used effectively, I find nothing wrong with using it. Make sure it has a purpose and adds something to the story. If you find that it seems out of place or pointless, toss it.
     
  6. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    No there's a reason for using it and I appreciate the advice. But it just seemed as if it was cheapening the concept a little cause it's been over done. Too much of a cliche, if you understand?
     
  7. RickySchaedeWrites
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    RickySchaedeWrites New Member

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    I was originally going to begin my novel with a flashback, but I realized a way to eliminate it. I found a way to let the characters reveal certain aspects of the past, and other aspects not, so that I can reveal them later in the series when it makes sense and plays a part in certain character arcs and relationships. I definitely think flashbacks are viable, but realized I was only opening with a flashback as a sort of crutch because I wasn't sure where I was taking the plot. If you think you are using it as a crutch, see where starting other ways might take you, but it is definitely viable and not 'cliche' as others have said if it is done well.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    When someone is reading your story, they don't think about what's been done or how often. If that were the case, writing would have dried up long ago because everything has been done before, one way or another. My advice is to stop worrying about what's been done and how often, and just write what you want to write as well as you can write it. And for heaven's sake, stop worrying about it being "cliche". No literary device is "cliche" in and of itself. It's made that way by poor writing. So, write well.
     
  9. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Ok, lets clear this up. You cannot 'open' with a flashback. A flashback by definition is when an earlier event is inserted to interrupt the normal linear chronology of the story, as in you start at one point in time and then show something happening at a previous point in time. If you open on a scene and then fastforward to the next scene several years later, this is not really a flashback, because it is still sequential.

    Most people who start a story with a scene set some time before the next part of the story manage the transition by calling it a prologue.
     
  10. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, you can open with a flashback if it's obvious from the get-go that a character in the present is flashing back. First person narrative can do that pretty easily. "I remember all those years ago some stuff happened." Right there, that's opening with a flashback.

    That's exactly right. Be worried about whether it's terrible, not whether it's cliché. I personally avoid flashbacks. Too often they're awkward and prone to being terribly written. I mean, they can be used well, but really you have to ask yourself if the plot calls for such a device or whether you're just trying to use it to be cool or something.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    IMO, avoid them if possible, but if you must have one (can't think of one good reason but perhaps you can), don't put it at the beginning--it is not a flashback then, as kallithrix says, it is more like a prologue.
     
  12. miss sunhine
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    miss sunhine Member

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    No, they're okay, i've never used one myself but like any other device i think you mustn't over use them.
     
  13. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I agree that it's potentially not a flashback if it is at the beginning, if your time line has not yet been established.

    Again, don't worry about it being cliche.

    I think a lot of writers here are overly concerned about being cliche. Plot devices are not cliche, storylines are not cliche, names are not cliche, ideas are not cliche, in and of themselves -- regardless of whether similar things have been used often in the past, they can still be written well.

    What we should avoid like the plague is using cliche phrases.
     
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  14. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    My writing always treats flashbacks as the ruminations and thought processes of the view point character at the time. Something will 'activate' a flashback but how it is described is ultimately kept relevant to the 'present' in the story. I don't like flashbacks for disorientation's sake. They work well in film because films are almost always from a viewpoint outside the characters' heads. In writing, often the prose is essentially from a single character's viewpoint, and thus obscuring events or chronology can often be dishonest. Essentially it's the whole, 'don't think of an elephant' dilemma. If an event in the past is so pertinent to the character that it must be told in the story, then it would be an event very often ON that character's mind. Revisiting that event would be essential to characterisation and most likely the journey of that character. The only cliche would be how that is done. What the written equivalent of the 'wavy screen' flashback transition used in film?
     

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