The Writers Circle: Flashbacks

One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

How/when/why do you choose to include a flashback or to otherwise present scenes out of standard chronological order in your book? Do you make a conscious choice because you feel it promotes the plot, or is it an organic decision that suits your story better than another device? Do you choose to never use this device?  Share your strategies, tips and tricks in the comments below or in the forums.




4 thoughts on “The Writers Circle: Flashbacks

  1. In my current WIP I used a flashback, but in a different manner that I’ve seen before. It was organic to the story. I used the entire 2nd and 3rd chapters for it – because it helped the reader know what the two protagonists (two children) were about to face. Because my POV is a “grandfatherly” narrator, I could do this pretty easily. I just simply had the narrator say that we (the narrator and the reader) were going to go back a few days. I’ve seen others simply use memories, but they tell that it’s memories. I think the best ways for flashbacks are using simplicity.

  2. I have the same question. I had a few chapters/scenes spread evenly throughout the story, but now I’m editing, I can’t help but feel they shouldn’t be there, not because they bring the story to a halt (my main character has amnesia with the exception of one prolonged memory, which is vital for the character’s way of thinking), but because I’m afraid they might distract the reader. So I have them in separate folders waiting either for divine inspiration to tell me whether to use them or not, or my betas to give me the OK, once I’m done editing. It’s really frustrating. I can sum that memory into maybe three paragraphs, and avoid the hassle, BUT if I do that, I risk showing an incomplete version of the main character.

  3. I’ve done the flashback thing numerous times in stories. I personally like making them flow as seamlessly in the story as I can. So for example I might have a character say “Remember when you did such-and-such”… then the narrative will go into that memory and the flashback story will be told up until we are suddenly back into the present, right at the point where we left it for that flashback. When I do it right, it feels like it just flows with no problems and works out well. If I do it badly though (i.e. in an early draft or something), it can be jarring to suddenly be back in the present. I suppose the type of media would factor into this as well, as a movie or TV script can handle that jarring type of flashback better than a short story can.

  4. I’m a bit late in responding to this post, but until three days ago I’d been without a computer for a month or so.
    There are flashbacks in my WIP, and they’re always from the POV of my protagonist – a thirteen-year-old girl. The first instance is when she’s on a train running away from home. She slips into her memories easily, and it’s the clanging of level grossing bells that brings her back to the present. The second instance was a bit harder, and I’m only 95% happy with it so it needs a bit more tweaking. On the whole, I think flashbacks can play a very valuable role telling a story. It beats the, “and now dear reader, it was about a month ago that…”

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