1. ACreativeMess
    Offline

    ACreativeMess New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2007
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0

    Is it distracting?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ACreativeMess, Oct 18, 2007.

    I'm currently writing a novel that has areas in it where the characters remember parts of the story instead of them just living it right out. It's written in third person (because I enjoy that POV), which means that multiple view points are being told (only about three or four). The parts that are remembered by each character is a valid memory and needs to be told one way or the other. My concern, though, is whether or not making characters remember a scene (instead of just having them play it out in the present), is too distracting. I have an example if any of you are confused on what I mean...
     
  2. Scavenger
    Offline

    Scavenger Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2007
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Colorado
    It depends on how you organize it. If the memories have a theme in their content, even a general one, then I think you might be able to pull it off, but I'd be careful. Random memories inserted into the flow of the narrative will be both distracting and pointless, especially when everything else happens in "real time." However, if you work these memories into your characterization and make them unique to each character, then I think you could manage it, and turn it into something interesting.

    That said, memories and flashbacks are used a lot...so unless you've got a really good reason for using the memories, I would shy away from them just for the hell of it.
     
  3. Funny Bunny
    Offline

    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2007
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    6
    I have a similar situation. I have a multiple person pov book with one important and motivating memory from the past becoming stronger and stronger until it really meets up with the character at the end in "the present" in a way. At the beginning there are hints of it, and then there are memories and dreams, and then "action" and then "obsession," in a way as it becomes stronger Until it becomes "real" being doubles in a very similar sequence. Sort of how an itch might become a scratch, and you might scratch until you have ripped a hole in your leg or wherever.
    It is only a small part of the book, but a major motivation around which other action is involved.
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I think it all depends on how well you handle your scene transitions. You want your reader to become immersed in each scene,past or present, so I would avoid constructs like "He remembered being...", that remove the reader from the scene by a level.

    The transitions have to be clear enough that the reader isn't left confused as to what time period he or she is currently in, unless that confusion is something you need to convey at that time. Because these are recollections, not someone being bounced around his or her life's timeline involuntarily (refer to The Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., or the TV shows Journeyman and Quantum Leap), you probably do not want to convey that kind of uncertainty.
     
  5. bluejt2000
    Offline

    bluejt2000 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2007
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    4
    If you have characters reminisce about events than this is a form of back story. Back story is static. No matter how exciting the events that are told in this way, and how well you handle the time transitions, it holds up the action in the present of the novel. It is something that has already happened; it is history. Sometimes it is necessary and if kept brief it can be fine. But if you have several characters reminisce for whole scenes then it could be off-putting to a reader.

    Is this really necessary? Isn't there another way your story could be told? If not then couldn't you condense the memories, chop them into bits, and just drop them in here and there as is through flashback (something that is at least triggered by the present) as and when necessary for the reader's understanding of the plot?

    John
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I have to disagree. Reminiscing about past events is generally awful.

    Back story is still part of the story, and the best way to keep the reader's interest is to surround the reader with the events as they occur. The past, the present, the future: these are all just different periods in which events can unfold, and revelations can appear. If you tell a story that covers different time periods, there is some common thread that binds it all together. So you uncover it in bits and pieces, and leave the reader waiting for the final elements that tie it all together.
     
  7. dwspig2
    Offline

    dwspig2 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2007
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    If your character is just thinking about the past, I think that can be bad too. I have this problem myself where the characters do too much thinking. Thinking is a passive action. Granted, the character is doing something, but he isn't manifesting that something. Whatever he is doing is confined to his mind, and there it stays. The reader has to pry into the character's mind to just to see what he's thinking about, and once the reader is there, it's just a memory - how boring.

    As I said, I do this all the time, and it's one of my biggest problems. My characters think too much. A friend of mine suggests presenting the information in a more active way. Instead of thinking about or remembering a time when something happened, perhaps a flashback to that time is more appropriate; however, I think that flashbacks open up the door to other problems, which you eluded to in your post. Flashbacks can be severely intrusive. They can stick out like a sore thumb and leave your reader wondering why they were so important to begin with.

    I don't have an easy fix for the thinking problem. Perhaps having characters mention a past event in dialogue. That doesn't solve your problem if it's just one character, though. It's something that you just have to toy around with until you find the best way of doing it.
     
  8. SAGMUN
    Offline

    SAGMUN Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2007
    Messages:
    55
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Land of Enchament
    ONE

    Not if used as a contradiction, conflict, or the character question their own recollection or sanity.

    TWO
    1. The Japanese film Roshomon is all back story told by several characters.

    2. In the film Gigi there is a warm, humorous song I Remenber It Well sung by Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold.

    3. Ingrid Bergman, in Gaslight, question her sanity when she finds Charles Boyer's watched in her purse.
     
  9. Lily
    Offline

    Lily Member

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2006
    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    0
    I have two flashbacks/memories in my story. But they are both puzzle pieces that go together. You don't get the second one until later in the story. Is that bad? They are memories of events that are important in establishing a relationship history. Personally, I LOVE reading flashbacks and memories in books - it shows a different side of the characters that you might be able to relate to better.
     

Share This Page