1. Graham Penman

    Graham Penman Member

    Jun 12, 2014
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    Using flashbacks

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Graham Penman, Jun 14, 2014.

    I'm currently in the middle of writing a fiction novel. I use flashbacks a lot to tell the story of my main protagonist as I don't just want her telling other characters about it, I want her to relive memories as the story progresses and show how she felt at that point when it was actually happening and show how she feels now in comparison (If this makes sense?) Is this a good idea? does anyone have any tips in how to do this the best way?

    All help appreciated.
  2. Eedjii

    Eedjii Member

    Jun 13, 2014
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    Texas, Tx
    Hell yeah it's a good idea! Just maybe try and give the character a reason to flashback to something.


    He saw the spork, it made him cry, sent him into a hate-filled stupor. What was left of his mind traveled backward, to the time his papa was alive. Papa used a spork to wipe his butt.

    "Never again," He said as his mind came back. He shivered.


    EDIT: How 'bout amnesia? Folks seem to love that ol' trick :p
  3. A.M.P.

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Contributor

    Sep 30, 2013
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    A Place with no History
    Before anyone else does: flashbacks are a bad idea! You should never use them! RAGE!!!

    Anyhoo.... Crazy aside,

    First, as an avid reader, are you sure you can't tell the story without flashbacks and just have bits of history revealed as you progress? Or can you tell the story from a point in the past rather in the future of the so-interesting flashbacks?

    A lot of books do use flashbacks successfully, nothing wrong them. I tnink they did a lot of that in Dicey's Song.. or something. Full on flashbacks I usually see more in books written in first person or in biographies or something. In fiction, rarely as it's not a popular choice.

    I personally just recommend having your narrator tell the important pieces of backstory as they occur, as if the reader is constantly learning and exploring the protagonist instead of stopping the story and action over and over just so we can relive something that's already done and over with and changes nothing to the 'now'.

    Recently, I read Scott Lynch's new book and it has a lot of flashbacks throughout. Every few chapters send us like 20 years into the past to explore the past of Locke. We already knew a lot about it and nothing major or new is really revealed but it was a strong narrative that gave us lots of insights to him as a child and how it was to grow up as one of the orphan's on Orphan Hill. I thought it was well done as it gave a lot of build up for the official introduction to his lover who we only ever heard about but never seen.

    So.. yeah, that's my flip-flop advice,
  4. Okon

    Okon Contributor Contributor

    Sep 26, 2013
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    My tip: keep 'em short and to the point, because the present is much more interesting.
  5. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Mar 3, 2013
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    Ralph's side of the island.
    Yes and yes.:)

    Except, there's no reason a flashback can't be interesting. They need to be done right.

    And I agree, one should have a tad more reason than just revealing backstory to use them.

    The problem with flashbacks is you are taking the reader out of the story. I agree, short is usually a good idea.

    I'm using them because my story is about a 17 yr old but there were scenes when she was 10-14 that I wanted to write. Had I started the story with the girl at 10, it would have been a different plot altogether. But if I only revealed the backstory of her younger self, I couldn't really tell that part of the story and I wanted to. It is part of the story, not mere backstory.
  6. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Jun 13, 2010
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    Queens, NY
    As opposed to a nonfiction novel?

    If it's a novel, it's fiction.
  7. TDFuhringer

    TDFuhringer Contributor Contributor

    Jan 28, 2012
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    Somewhere South of Midnight
    In my fantasy novel, I decided I wanted no prologue and no flashbacks. The lore and history are revealed in conversation and brief brush strokes of description of the way the world is now (implying what it used to be). But when I was done, I discovered I'd written two flashbacks! One is disguised as a recurring nightmare, the other as a near-death experience. I'm a big fan of disguise. My recommendation is to disguise your flashbacks, make them less obvious, seamless even. Keeping them brief helps.
  8. Mike Kobernus

    Mike Kobernus Senior Member

    Oct 23, 2013
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    I agree with brief flashbacks. They should be organic to the main story, as Edjii pointed out.

    I have a novel that tells one of the main character's entire history through the flashbacks of another character.

    I say use them. If you don't think they work, trim them, or replace them with dialogue, or some such....
  9. Renee J

    Renee J Senior Member

    Oct 7, 2013
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    Reston, VA
    I have quite a few flash backs, usually less than a page long. This is still my first draft, so I might change it. Right now, I think they work better than a few paragraphs of telling. (Though, I have some of that, too.)

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