1. RainbowWarrior
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    RainbowWarrior Member

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    The best way to show flashbacks

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by RainbowWarrior, Mar 26, 2013.

    in chapter 1 of book 1, its a flashback (i didnt call it prologue because i know people are put off by the word)

    in chapter 2, i was thinking about having my main character wake up from a dream (which was the flashback). originally the beginning of chapter 2 was just my main character in her daily life...
    would it be better to connect the flashback to the beginning of chapter 2 or just make them completely seperate?

    i want to have more flashbacks later on, because my main characters mum is massively connected to the main villan, and i want to make my main characters life more interested and upsetting which could appeal more to the reader.

    but how do i go about putting there flashbacks in???

    i thought about having my main character obtain a diary that was her mums, or maybe meditate so she can access memories (she does a lot of spiritual training through the books btw)

    what do you fine people think? :)
     
  2. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I think you are over-thinking it. You don't need to give yourself an excuse to use a flashback (unless they are intentional for the story, then by all means use a dream or diary as an excuse). Just put the flashback where you need them. Readers will be smart enough to know they are flashbacks.
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I can certainly understand where you're coming from. My own Prologue takes place 6 years before the start of my main novel (which unfolds during an 8-month period), and is set in a different location. Revealing a particular event that happened to my protagonist earlier in his life is essential to the flow of my story. Instead of spending the entire novel wondering why my protagonist is secretive about his past life, my reader knows why right at the start. The story revolves around how he copes with what happened to him, not the mystery of what actually did. My Prologue sent my story in the direction I wanted it to go.

    (My protagonist is not my point-of-view character, so I can't reveal what happened to him through his own thoughts and memories. He is a mystery to the other characters in my novel—but, thanks to the use of a Prologue, not to my readers.)

    I personally have no problem with a Prologue, as long as it contains information that happened before the beginning of the present story, and is necessary to understanding the background to the story. I would much rather read a straightforward Prologue than a 'dream sequence' to tell you the truth. I think dreams should only be included if the FACT that they are dreams is important. It's an unreliable way to present true information, actually - because dreams can often be wrong. They only reveal the dreamer's state of mind, and may have nothing to do with reality.

    If you write your Prologue as an interesting scene, full of just as much character interaction, action, color, etc as you put into the main body of your story, you should have no problem. Just dive in and get it written.

    Personally, I am fed up to the back teeth with people who try to insist that Prologues are BAD. I'd like to see them give a convincing reason why all Prologues seem to fall into that category.

    Prologues are a perfectly useful tool to get a story underway, when used properly. They are not boring info-dumps, if they're written in a lively 'in-the-present' manner just like any other scene in your story. They can prevent the extensive use of flashbacks later on, which is probably a good thing. However, even flashbacks—if they are properly introduced and written as interesting/exciting scenes—also have a place in the writer's toolbox.

    Just write the story the way you want to. The important thing is to GET IT WRITTEN. Once you've done that, you will have a better idea of whether your Prologue works or not. If it does, keep it. If it slows the story down, or presents information that you later realise isn't necessary, or might be better worked into the ongoing story, then dump it.

    There are many ways to write a good story. Don't let other people's prejudices keep you from writing yours.
     
  4. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    It's not that prologues are in themselves bad, it's that publishers would rather "first time" novelists not use them. Because a large portion of readers will skip the prologue and jump straight to chapter one.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most prologues are a waste of everyone's time (reader, publisher, and writer), whether by new writer or veteran. But the veteran has less of an ecuse.

    Occasionally you may encounter a prologue that actually enhances the story. Savor the moment.

    And yet, so many writers think they are a good idea. Kind of like digital wristwatches with built-in calculators.
     
  6. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    To be fair they were pretty cool, i would have passed my maths test if it didnt beep everytime i pressed a button. Now the remote control ones were awesome.

    To be fair you dont want too many flash backs as it could interupt your flow, with the reader thinking "Wait where am I? The past or present?" To remidy this you could have a seperate chapter as a clear break.

    Excuse my spelling, on the advanced reply there is no red line to tell me i suck at spelling.
     
  7. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I also think it has a lot to do with genre as well. Epic fantasy for instance uses them all the time to great effect.
     
  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Good topic, not a bad idea to mull this over carefully. I kind of dislike flashbacks (and flashbacks within dreams) for the most part, but I understand that they are often necessary, and I use it in our writing too (I write with T.Trian who’s also here). I remember reading one of my love-to-hate novels, Sandman Slim, and the flashbacks to his time with his ex-girl weren’t all that badly executed. They were short-enough bits with plenty of dialogue which, to me, worked better than chunks of description. But then again, even big chunks are great if the story is interesting, like the flashbacks in Metro 2033. Not sure if a diary or meditation are necessary to make it work. You can implement them within the narration. Can you also show the mother’s role in, well, non-flashbacks, real time? Maybe she’s left something behind that connects her to the villain; a weapon, a kid, a puppy, whatever.
    In one of our books, a character has a flashback when she’s being choked out, so it’s kinda like a dream. It’s very short though, just a few sentences. Like I said, I have a bit of a problem with long flashbacks… and dreams… but I do like prologues :D
     
  9. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    .
    As there's a suggestion that prologues are unwarranted and can put readers off, how much of that comes from the use of the word Prologue at the start?

    I've seen authors effectively write a prologue (called Chapter 1) which simply starts e.g. Hong Kong - January 1968. A big bang entry into the story. Chapter 2 then starts - (somewhere else) January 1978.

    Clearly Chapter 1 was a prologue, so what's the real difference? Currently I'm torn between a prologue and a vivid dream/nightmare to open Chapter 1. The dream will necessitate periodic flashbacks as material is drip-fed into the story, but both appear to work.
     
  10. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Totally agree, having a prologue is cool, and makes you feel like James Bond.

    Please don't use the dream thing, that has never rung true for me. I don't know anyone who dreams detailed recounts of their early life. Why can't you just write it and date it?... People seem to strive for new and creative ways to incorporate flashbacks, but what's wrong with saying "six years earlier" - I personally wish authors would do this, it would make time-frames shifts a lot less jarring. But, perhaps I'm not snooty enough, and should get more annoyed when authors try to simplify their work for ease of reading.
     
  11. alexa_
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    alexa_ Banned

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    I guess that you should just write what you've made up in the very beginning. At first, dream, and then, the routine life, it seems to me, that readers will easily catch the idea.
     
  12. Yotam
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    Yotam Member

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    What about having a "time skip"? In my story there is a part where one character tells her past and I found it more easy and comfortable to write as a "time skip".
     
  13. cswillson
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    cswillson Member

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    Start with the action. A potential reader opens to page one (well not all, I don't) and you have about two paras to get them interested.

    I hate dream sequences. It's always a copout to finding a way what needs to be said in real time, real life.
     
  14. RainbowWarrior
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    RainbowWarrior Member

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    in chapter 5 or 6, my main character is given a package by her mums allies which contains a letter with coordinates to a secret location and a old fashioned knife with a black stone blade in a suede sheath. the letter doesnt contain much information though, in case it fell into enemy hands
     
  15. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You said it, man. Especially the last sentence :p

    Plus, what are dreams really like? Disturbing and irrational or plain boring. Mickey Mouse twerking away before you eyes, forgetting the spells they taught you at Hogwarts, or running late from school.
     
  16. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    If it's well written enough, it will be obvious if it's a flashback or not
     

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