Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Flashbacks: Some Tips


It's a super-busy weekend so the next few posts may be shorter, like point form short. So, let's get started. F is for Flashbacks. As you're aware, Flashbacks are any section of writing where your character is thinking about something that happened to them back in time, or information is revealed about what took place back in time.

Flashbacks can work in your writing to give the reader more of a sense of why your character is motivated to do the things they do, or just some general insight into the character that is necessary to know for your story. Flashbacks can also provide key information that is essential for the reader to know in terms of better understanding what is taking place in the present.

But, Flashbacks can take the reader out of the action of the story and make the pace of the writing choppy.

Here are some tips about Flashbacks according to my trusted editor 'pal' James Scott Bell:
  • If you must use a Flashback make sure it has some type of conflict in it so it keeps your reader engaged
  • Avoid using the word 'had' too much. Once or twice is enough (i.e. Mary had bought a cat at the pet store. She had picked the orange striped cat. That cat had the cutest eyes . . . had, had, had, etc, etc, is jarring)
  • Try to incorporate Flashbacks into dialogue in the present (i.e. "I know you. You're the boy who lost his parents in the car wreck.")
  • If a Flashback isn't essential omit it
Are there any other tips about Flashbacks you can share?


  1. Great point about using flashback in a dialogue. Have a great weekend!

  2. "If a flashback isn't essential omit it."

    Ahh, killing more darlings. Tough but true. Good advice!