How Authors Use Flashbacks
Occasionally I submit a blog to BookDaily.com on writing. Here’s one they published last December on incorporating flashbacks into your story. I hope it helps you whether you’re a reader or a writer.
A flashback is the scene of a past event used to provide information or explain the actions or motivations in the ongoing story. It has all the elements of a scene, such as setting, action, and tension, but it takes place in the past. When you depart from chronological order, you risk confusing the reader. Does that mean you should never use flashbacks? No, but it means their use must contribute to the telling of the story. For example, in the film Casablanca, we get a glimpse of Paris and the love affair between Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) to understand the romantic tension between them when they meet years later in Casablanca.
So, when could a flashback be useful?
After the opening scene of your book: The best place to start your book is with an action scene that hooks your reader. That scene may be the beginning of your book, but it’s not necessarily the beginning of your story. Now maintain the suspense of the opening scene by taking the reader back to the real beginning of your story.
To avoid a dull stretch in your story: Use the flashback to enliven the pace of a contemplative scene or avoid a potentially dull stretch of your story, such as when a character travels from one place to another. Break from the ongoing story by having the character remember a significant event during the trip and then play out that scene.
To hide a clue from the reader: Use a flashback to drop a clue that has relevance to the ongoing story. You’re still being fair to your reader, but the clue may be less obvious when it’s planted in a flashback.
To show rather than tell: Use a flashb