re: The Dreaded Flashback

posted 7/12/16

Dear Editor…

In my outline, my main character finds out my supporting character has been manipulating her from the beginning and wants answers. Initially, I was going to write a flashback chapter to explain how that came about, but I’ve read readers and writers hate flashbacks. The flashback was going to be his explanation. How else could I achieve this?

Sincerely,
J

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Dear J…

Just as there are anti-prologuers, there are anti-flashbackers. Don’t let them dictate your storytelling choices. I hate the thought of writers avoiding devices that’re right for their stories because they fear knee-jerk rejection of the device itself. What bears consideration is what causes anti-flashbackism: Sometimes flashbacks slam the brakes on a story’s forward momentum because they throw us backward. Sometimes they feel too pat. Now consider that in real life, demanding answers from one’s nemesis requires a present-day showdown, with accusations, denials, miscommunications, and missed opportunities for clarity, recompense, and reconciliation. Juicy stuff! Why not experiment with such a scene? Even if it feels scary to write, stay with the experiment since those feelings could be a sign you’re avoiding “pat” and writing something rich, cathartic, and thoroughly satisfying.

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read General fiction, Plot
posted by: The Editor
under: General fiction, Plot
Comments to "re: The Dreaded Flashback" | Add a Comment
    1. Edith Hope Fine wrote (on 07/12/16 at 11:23 am) :

      As per usual, D, your insight is spot on. We love your brain (and you!).

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 07/12/16 at 3:04 pm) :

      Thanks, Edith! You know I love to be helpful so it’s good to know that this advice strikes you as useful.

      [Reply]

    2. JC wrote (on 07/13/16 at 1:25 am) :

      I’ve hated the flashback dilemna since I first read about it myself. Something important to the story happened in the past and just when you want to explain what that was, the flashback dilemna. I can see what The Editor means about crafting a explosive exchange that gradually reveals information and how that could be more interesting than a flashback. As a new Writer, I’m not qualified to say much about writing, but I’d guess you’d have to be careful not to fall into an endless and drawn out conversation to get the same amount of information that’d you’d get much more concisely from a flashback.

      [Reply]

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