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Author Zone - Readers Welcome! > Flashbacks in a story

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message 1: by ✿Claire✿ (new)

✿Claire✿ (clairelm) | 3055 comments I'm getting back into writing again, I'm determined to get something I've started at least nearly finished this year! One of the ideas I'm toying with for one of my stories is flashbacks, probably starting about a third of the way through the book, to link with what the main characters are discovering.
Do they work? Or is it a terrible idea? Should I leave the explanations of what they discover just to what is written in the files they discover? Any help or ideas would be appreciated, thank you :)


Michael Cargill Cargill (michaelcargill) | 2998 comments There is nothing inherently good or bad about using flashbacks. If it helps to develop your characters, then it's fine.


message 3: by David (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 7939 comments I agree with Michael. In theory, anything works, it's a matter of how well it is handled.


message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim | 21932 comments yes it's purely a matter of technique and how you do it.
I think they got a bad name in film because they were often over done and confusing :-)


message 5: by Kath (new)

Kath Middleton | 25063 comments I'm reading a book now with flashbacks. It's a good story and well written so I'm enjoying them.


message 6: by Jim (new)

Jim | 21932 comments It's when you read a book and end up having flashbacks that you start to worry :-)


Michael Cargill Cargill (michaelcargill) | 2998 comments I'm well known for flashing my backside.


Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments Flash-backs are fine. Its when you start in on flash-forwards or flash-sideways that you have to be careful...


T4bsF (Call me Flo) (time4bedsaidflorence) Michael Cargill wrote: "I'm well known for flashing my backside."

OOOOh errrrrr Matron!!!


message 10: by Michael Cargill (new)

Michael Cargill Cargill (michaelcargill) | 2998 comments My glutes are fantastic.


T4bsF (Call me Flo) (time4bedsaidflorence) .......are they bedecked with fairy lights?


message 12: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth White | 2067 comments Trying desperately not to laugh...

Seriously, I think you can get to a point where there is so much back-story, that you either have to use flashbacks or write a prequel or three.


message 13: by ✿Claire✿ (new)

✿Claire✿ (clairelm) | 3055 comments Oh dear, it's amazing where threads can end up!!!
But thank you everyone, I was thinking of using them to illustrate the information the characters find, otherwise it'll be a lot of reading of texts they discover. So I'll give it a go and see what happens.


T4bsF (Call me Flo) (time4bedsaidflorence) Good luck - however you decide to handle it x


message 15: by Jan (new)

Jan Hurst-Nicholson (janhurst-nicholson) | 360 comments Flashbacks have to be handled carefully. A quick poll of readers will tell you that most don't care for flashbacks.
A story should begin with action, so with one of my books I began with the action of the MC beginning a new job, and then showed a flashback of how he got the job. I had another flashback in the final chapters. A reviewer gave me 4 stars but warned readers that it was a 'back to front story' and the end was at the beginning, which it wasn't at all. Sales sort of fell off after that. (I wouldn't read a story with the end at the beginning!)
I then edited the story to make the first flashback a separate chapter, and I took out the flashback at the end.
But the review still sits there and I feel it is hurting sales - so be wary of flashbacks.


message 16: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 4053 comments Late to the party, but here's my three pennorth...

Flashbacks, if done well, can be great. But they're one of a number of techniques which can often be done badly, along with prologues, multiple points of view, mixing tenses.

New writers often reach for these techniques because they think it will help them to stand out. Unfortunately, it can just leave them looking like new writers.

The usual advice is "use with caution".


message 17: by Joanna (new)

Joanna Elm | 9 comments If you adhere to the suggestion that you should start your novel "in media res" that is, at an exciting point, then you will surely always have some length of flashback to explain how your characters got to that point. You may be able to explain it all in dialog, but that's more difficult to do than a well-written flashback.
Also just consider : Did reams of flashback (in the form of a diary) hurt the sales of Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl ?"


message 18: by Billy (new)

Billy McLaughlin | 3 comments I didn't use flashbacks in my book but I used hallucinations to infer what had previously taken place. The images were suggestive of what had gone on to lead the reader to the truth rather than telling them what the physical exchanges were. I hope that makes sense.


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