Writing Do’s and Don’ts: Flashbacks

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Writing Flashbacks

Picture Source: cartoonsy.com
Picture Source: cartoonsy.com

Flashbacks can be a helpful tool for telling a story. Here are some tip if you are considering using one for yours.

DO:

1. Determine if you really need a flashback.

Many people consider flashbacks to be a cliche. So if you are certain that your story needs a flashback, you’re going to have to do it in a creative manner to make it stand out from the rest.

2. Determine how the flashback will be used.

There are several options to using a flashback. It can be a brief memory, it can be a full scene, it can be a dream. It could even be journal/diary/blog entries from the past.

3. Let your reader get settled into the story before going back into the past.

There are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part it’s best to wait a bit until you take your reader into a flashback. Let your reader get to know your character(s).

DON’T:

1. Don’t use a flashback if you are unsure if it serves the story.

If you are writing a flashback that has little to no purpose in your story, readers may be puzzled and waiting for a greater meaning. Only use a flashback if you think it is absolutely necessary.

2. Overuse flashbacks.

Obviously there are exceptions (perhaps if your character is actively trying to recover a partial memory vital to the storyline), but for the most part, I wouldn’t use too many flashbacks. Too many can take away from your story or confuse your readers, especially if most or all of them don’t even serve a real purpose in the story.

3. Start your book with a flashback.

Again, there are exceptions, but as a general rule, this is considered cliche. Especially if you use a dream to convey it. If you are adamant about starting your book with a flashback, make sure it is creative and fits a purpose.

 

jncahill_name

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