Purple Prose + Writing

Leaping Back in Time (part 1)

To help the reader connect with your characters, you need to show the characters’ emotions. Flashbacks are a good way to enhance emotion in a scene. Instead of telling why the character feels this way, you show it based on events that happened in the past. However, before you add a flashback to a scene, there’re some important points you need to know.

1. Stories move forward, right? But flashbacks move back in time. Using a flashback can slow the pace of your story and can leave your readers frustrated. They just want to keep reading the immediate action, not be forced to jump back and forth.

2. Make sure your flashback is there for a good reason. Don’t include it just for the sake of having one.

3. Only include the most relevant information. Don’t go off on some other tangent because you think it sounds cool. Get in and out as quickly as possible.

4. Avoid using them in your first chapter.

Types of flashbacks:

1. Narration: This is the sentence or short paragraph that tells you about an event in a character’s past. You’re quickly in and out of the flashback before the story has a chance to stop.

2. Scene within a scene: This flashback includes action and dialogue—like a regular scene. You’re there with the character, living her emotions at that moment, so when she steps back into the present, her emotions there take on a more vivid feel.

3. A combination of the two.

Another point you need to consider is how you’re going to transition in and out of the flashback. You want to avoid jumping up and down, screaming, “Flashback starts here!” Jessica Morrell has some great advice and examples in, Writing Between the Lines. Remember, you’ll need something significant to trigger the memory, but avoid this mistake:

Seeing the apple, Brianna remembered back to the time when she was three years old and visited her aunt on the set of Days of Our Lives.

If every time Brianna sees an apple and remembers that day, then I suggest she gets therapy. Then find something unique as a trigger. Oh and a hint, that was a lousy transition.

Okay, that’s enough to absorb for one day. The rest of the lesson will be posted tomorrow.

flashbacks, riveting words, and more:

Leaping Back in Time (part 1) + Writing