1. Dragon Boy
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    Dragon Boy Member

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    How do you feel about flashbacks in a novel?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Dragon Boy, Feb 3, 2012.

    I have heard some writers frown upon the use of flashbacks in a novel, but personally I think in other medias such as TV series and manga it is a very powerful tool and can get the audience to care about your characters. We have a perfect example of this in LOST.

    So the question is do you use flashbacks in your stories? If not is it something you would consider or do you think it disrupts the flow of the story?

    I look forward to reading your insights on the subject.
     
  2. Show
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    I don't hate flashbacks like most here. I say, like anything else, if it's relevant and well-done, then do it.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I dislike flashbacks written poorly.
     
  4. Kitty08
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    I find them a bit jarring when reading--I don't want to be whisked back into the past when I'm already into the present story. When I write I always try to do so in a way that avoids the need for flashbacks. However, they're sometimes necessary to the plot, so if that's the case one or two well-written flashbacks are ok. It's much easier to do it properly in TV shows because we're used to the stories being broken up there, so flashbacks fit in fine.
     
  5. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    This exactly. I do like them when written well, on the other hand. ;)
     
  6. Xatyrn
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    Xatyrn Member

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    I just wrote a short story and included one or two to emphasize my character's fear of water and to explain how she ended up in her situation. But I may not have needed it, so in my revisions I shall reconsider it. Hm. :x
    But as for my opinion on flashbacks...if they are necessary to a theme or something, then they're good as long as they're integrated well. I've never had much of a problem with them. I guess I've seen people start stories at the present, then have the character consider and think over how they got to their present point in pretty much flashback form...I never really considered that sort of flashback usage...but like I said, it doesn't bother me too much...
     
  7. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    I think it's a stylistic choice. I try to avoid them. I've found there are often either other ways of presenting the information if it's necessary to the story.

    Conversely, I don't mind reading them when they're done well.
     
  8. IrishLantern
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    IrishLantern Member

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    I don't mind the use of flashbacks. I like when stories start off in the middle of the action and then go backwards to give you context for what is going on.

    As others have said, as long as it's done well, it's all good.
     
  9. shakespear57
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    shakespear57 Member

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    I love flashbacks :) they help push the story along in a way that wouldnt have been able to happen otherwise :)
     
  10. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I tend to visualise flash backs as in driving a car.
    When I drive forward I am writing in the present as it happens and when I reverse to park/avoid traffic/obstacles or simply turn around I then write flashbacks.
    And since no one drives their car backwards to go places in real life then I don't writes entire stories based on flashbacks.
    In other words I like few flashbacks here and there in my story to give it content and shape, and I write forward about something about to happen and will continue to happen.
    I do not enjoy reading or writing backwards, as in a story that is written in the present and being told in the past.
    I prefer to read and write about things that are about to happen and will continue that way.
    Images like this helps me understand my writing.
    I like to call it writing progressive, modern or visually futuristic.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd use them if necessary... done well, they work well... done poorly, or overdone, they don't...
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it is possible to write a compelling work of fiction, over 80K words, without ever using a flashback. I use them when and if they are needed, especially for characterisation and to flavour description, but also, occasionally, a longer flashback is needed, but those I use rarely. Short ones, more often. But as with all things, they must seamlessly blend in, they should be written because it makes sense to do so, not in order to info dump etc.
     
  13. Show
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    I dislike anything written poorly.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That was my point, if I must beat it to a pulp.
     
  15. Show
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    Since when are you against pulp? :p

    My jab was more focused at the anti-flashback mentality that seems to creep up whenever somebody brings the topic up.
     
  16. louis1
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    I think flashbacks are cool, and I read somewhere on the internet that if you can't keep your flashback for the last fourth of your novel you might have started your novel to late or something, that's a cool rule, but I don't really follow it. my novel's full of flashbacks.. the first chapter is actually a flashback soo yeah, fuck rules... lol i'm sooo damn rebellious.
     
  17. Dragon Boy
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    Could anybody recommend a book where flashbacks are well executed?
     
  18. jonathan.gaurano
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    jonathan.gaurano Member

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    I'm in love with flashbacks! In fact, I find it very useful to when creating additional background information. The idea is to create a more substantive development (character development) back story. Call it cheating, but it's very useful and I think it pulls in the reader to invest more in the character(s)
     
  19. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    here is how you do it.
    After you had a dream, try and write it out in the past tense.
    It is a good practice plus it is real to you.
     
  20. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    I disagree in the most strong terms. I have read hundreds of novels that never once employed a flashback (neither does my own) and I wouldn't say they suffered for it. Linear chronology is pretty much the established norm, whereas flashbacks are the exception, in my experience.
     
  21. Anniexo
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    I'm alright with them if they add something to the story and are necessary.
     
  22. tlbyford
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    As long as the author is not just being lazy and using the flashback as an info dump. I personally try to avoid them.

    ~t
     
  23. Show
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    I tend to find trying to avoid flashbacks at all costs usually results in the infodump, or at least the one that actually feels like an infodump.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not every reference to the past is a flashback. A flashback is a full scene, written very much like the scenes within the main storyline.

    Michael Connelly has often referred back to character Harry Bosch's experiences in Viet Nam pursuing VC through tunnels they had dug, and yet never once used a flashback scene in doing so.
     
  25. Dragon Boy
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    Dragon Boy Member

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    Very good tip ! I'll keep that in mind.
     

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