1. Annihilation

    Annihilation Active Member

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    Is this a good way to capture a deep connection with a character?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Annihilation, Nov 17, 2015.

    Well I'm back here with more questions about my novel, haha.

    One of the major characters, a little boy was taken away during a war scene. To give you more insight, my story is basically about this cult that practices shamanism and astral travel in Spain. The government wages war against them, with the colonel as leader. The boy is mistaken for a cult member and is taken.

    I'm planning on cutting to flashback scenes that show his ordeals, past moments with his family and things like that in between present scenes with different mc's until he shows up again as an adult, still captive in the present.

    Do you think this will add some depth and power to the story?

    This is a fantasy story but war is still a big thing in it.

    Thanks!
     
  2. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    If done well, yes. If not, no.
     
  3. Annihilation

    Annihilation Active Member

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    Hmm what would you consider well and not so well?
     
  4. Grenwickle

    Grenwickle New Member

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    Those sort of jerky timelines can be used to great effect, but if you're not sure whether it will work for your story, perhaps consider what it's meant to achieve. In my understanding, this is what it's for:
    It brings together past and present influences and important events to shed light onto the plot or world and make it cohesive/understandable.
    It can be as much about withholding information as showing it. (The information sharing aspect can be as tricky as the old "convenient explanatory dialogue" trope.)
    It takes away any anchor to the present, and makes the story more about the timeline as a whole, often with more focus on things besides the main character.

    Whether you can pull it off or not depends on the flow and rhythm of the story shifts, as well as the order of the scenes. You don't want to confuse the reader by having too many different scenes, hard to follow relevance, or simply an overload of information.
    If you want this story to center more on the MC, and get readers emotionally invested in this one person, it would probably be more effective to have a sequential storyline, but I suppose it also depends on what proportion of your story is dedicated to flashbacks. If it's a little flashback every other chapter you can ignore half of what I've said.
     
  5. Annihilation

    Annihilation Active Member

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    Well what if it's sometimes two to three pages of a past memory?

    Because this kid in the story is taken away and believed to be dead and there is a theme in the story "love kills" the mom tries so hard to protect the kid but eventually evil prevails and he dies. So I wanted to show a connection between him and his parents through flashbacks in between other present scenes.
     
  6. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    If it's important and helps develop the character and the characters responses it could work really well. I remember Dean Kootz did this in Intensity - it helped drag out the suspense and it helped reinforce that the mc Chynna was a survivor.
     
  7. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    We need a thread on flashbacks like the one we have on italics.

    These sources looked useful. This one has an extensive discussion:
    Writer's Digest - 3 Tips for Writing Successful Flashbacks

    This one has one of those "never" opinions I find useful but only for the information, I never take their absolute advice, it seems trite to me:
    TARA K. HARPER -WRITER'S WORKSHOP - Flashbacks -- Absobloominlutely Not

    I think the point of these absolutists is they see enough new writers do something wrong that it's easier to just say, never do it. But you can find all sorts of well written novels with the very techniques people are supposedly not supposed to ever do. So clearly their advice should be taken with a grain of salt.

    From the last link:
    But what I see instead is

    Lazy/cheating: whenever I see this criticism I see a critic that can't articulate the actual problem.

    Irritating to the reader: only if you don't have interesting flashbacks.

    But the comments about how to put backstory into the body of the work and using the mystery, (don't tell the reader everything all at once), are very useful comments.

    Those are the two things this blogger lazily referred to as cheating and lazy. :p
     
  8. Fitzroy Zeph

    Fitzroy Zeph Contributor Contributor

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    Flashbacks are great, I get them all the time. On the the other hand, books with dream scenes should be outlawed, or at a minimum, come with a big yellow warning sticker.
     
  9. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I just checked the linked Writers' Digest article and found it helpful, especially the part about getting into and out of a long flashback with past perfect, while using past tense for most of it. Seems that would infuse the flashback scenes with immediacy.
     
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  10. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Will you be doing this flashback thing to the point where you've got parallel timelines going? If so, you maybe could think up some device or trigger to signal the reader that it's Earlier Times now, not Later, and vice versa. Done right, it could be very effective.
     
  11. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Personally I think flashbacks work best, but not exclusively, when it is told from a character's perspective. In 3rd I would have the character retell the story of the flashbacks to another character via dialogue, or have a moment to think back about it and remember, creating more fleshed out scenes. These are also how 1st would work, with a bias to internal dialogue. Either way, I feel you need to justify the timing and relevance of the scene and not just tell us whenever you feel like it.
     
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  12. Annihilation

    Annihilation Active Member

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    How about this:

    What if I write a scene and at the end of it, a character expresses guilt and then I use them five stars (*****) and tell the flashback in 3rd person about that characters guilt using this font.

    Would that work?
     
  13. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    It would work. Not well, but it would work. But it would work a lot better if you have a seemless transition, that during the current timeline you make relevant connections to the past and then start to describe it. Another method is to simply cut to a new chapter. But smooth transitions both work better and give better context to it's relevance.

    As soon as you stick in ***** the reader goes, fuck, commercial break...
     
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  14. Annihilation

    Annihilation Active Member

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    Lol.. But isn't it good to divide scenes in that way? Because in this particular story there is no chapters. There's three parts and an epilogue. So I always use those little stars to switch mc's pov or scenes.
     
  15. Grenwickle

    Grenwickle New Member

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    2-3 pages is alright I think, it's just about how the length compares to the main storyline. From everything you've said though, it sounds like the story will be interesting.
     
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  16. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Well, no. I'm not going to change my answer. It's better to make it relevant than random. Ie; Why are you cutting to this? What's the relevance? Why do I care?

    Or, the MC just suggested that his fear of spiders was caused by an incident in his attack helicopter in basic training that everyone else thought hilarious but really shook him up, now I'm intrigued, tell me more... ooh, flashback!
     

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