Writing flashbacks is one excellent skill you can have as a writer. If you wish to write good fiction, then you need to be pretty good at this craft. It is said to have been the source of interesting stories right from time.
What is a flashback?
Flashback is simply a scene that takes place before a given story starts. For instance, a male narrator in his 80s describes the period when he was younger and filled with vitality.
The example given above does say a whole lot about this male narrator. When it comes to writing flashbacks, they are known to recall a scene of emotional power. They do show the memories which haunt characters, although they can also be intensely joyous moments.
That said, here are the seven key steps in writing flashbacks;
Steps in writing flashbacks;
1. Why does your story need a flashback?
For many stories, the events do take place chronologically, which is in a simple succession evolving from scene to scene. Nonetheless, in stories involving a character’s memories or large leaps when it comes to time, writing flashbacks are peculiarly useful for showing crucial moments that drive the character’s present time perceptions and decisions.
2. Take a look at other flashback writings.
Writing flashback is simply a storytelling time travel. And getting it in the right manner can be pretty daunting, especially for first-time writers. To help in this, all you need to do is research stories that use this narrative device and see how other authors approach flashbacks.
3. Do make sure the flashback is relevant.
Do not rush it or become hasty in writing flashbacks for your story because you wish to make it catchy to your readers. If you do this, it tends to make your account a lot more difficult to follow.
Here’s the stuff, if you’re writing a flashback for your story, do ask yourself these questions before you proceed in writing;
Does it make sense in any way?
Can you put together the information in a regular scene instead? If yes, don’t use it.
Is it crucial for your reader’s understanding? And if not, please don’t use it.
4. Use a few flashback writings.
Please don’t overdo it. Flashbacks are a need-to-include element in a written story because it takes much more effort for the reader to get a grasp on what you’re trying to say in a flashback scene.
So, make sure you carefully go through your flashback writings or scenes, checking them out for relevance or necessity.
5. Make your good flashback writing clear.
Do not make your readers bothered by quickly making turns to the flow of your story, your reader needs to follow you through as you proceed with the story.
And when there’s a lack of clarity, this tends to lead to some confusion. So, while you attempt to shock your readers by hiding the basis or reality of the flashback writing, this can leave your readers feeling left out from the whole round of the story.
6. Giving it some form of consequence
Writing good flashback writing includes not showing the characteristics of your character. You need to set the tone for yourself and thrill your writers as they proceed with you.
So, the deeper the effect the good flashback writing has on the character in the present state of things in the story, the more powerful and intense the scene will be.
Effective flashback writings may be challenging to write. Still, they can also serve as a powerful emotional energizer within your story.
Good Flashback writings are;
It’s known to explain the current conflict.
Good flashback writing is said to help the reader understand why and how the main character got into the scene or acted in the first place, which tends to drive the plot and the major reasons behind the main conflict.
So, suppose there’s a long history of conflict between the protagonist and antagonist. In that case, the writer can apply flashback writings to show readers the state of things in the past.
It makes readers more connected.
Good flashback writing offers a more immersive insight into who a person is, the person the story is being directed to.
It could be a villain who thinks back on how he became a villain in his younger years, how the hint to commit atrocities had begun—put a past behavior that has influenced his bad behavior.
In such cases, readers might not rightly justify the villain’s acts at present but would feel some sense of empathy towards them.
Incorporates different periods
Everyone is said to have levels or stages of thoughtful moments in their lives, which tend to influence who they are at present.
Now, following the timeline sequence of a storyline can leave the plot feeling a little bit bland. Good flashback writings help to decipher or break up the tight timeline flow of a story, which makes it more interesting and realistic.
Aids character development
Flashback writings offer insight into the main character’s motivations for their decisions and the various actions they take in a given story.
Examples of flashback
- In a story about a woman who acts strangely and rue, there is a flashback to a scene where she’s molested by a bad man, in which this man is her uncle.
- A story about a boy who is afraid of social gatherings, there is a flashback to when he was heading to the mall with his mom. There was a mall attack that killed several people.
- A girl is in a strange house, she knows she isn’t supposed to be with this family, but the family treats her like she’s their own, then she’s taken to a distant past in memory, where she sees herself being kidnapped, she’s got to escape.
- A woman is ready to talk to her family about moving out of the neighborhood. Then she suddenly remembers the creepy old lady who knocked on her door last night warning her not to leave the premises or she’ll pay for her drastic decision. She has something she’s hiding from her family, something she doesn’t want them to know so they wouldn’t panic. She sighs and is brought back to the present to attend to her family with a smile on her face.
- A superhero is about to get killed, when his side-kick yells to him, he’s trying to tell him what to do to defeat the villain who’s excited in taking his life now. He remembers being a little child, a lady was about to be robbed, and he’d appeared to tell the grown men to leave the lady alone. But the sly thieves laughed at him and where about to shove him away when he’d shot out a strong laser from his eyes. And he quickly remembered, the only way to defeat the villain was having an extreme love to save someone to make strong his laser. He did it and won.
- A man is about to make a public speech, but the minute he touches the microphone he is taken aback. He remembered this scene, it was all in a dream last night and in a few hours’ time some assassins would come to shoot him. He begged the hosts that he wouldn’t stay for another minute because he’d believed some shooters where coming for him. The hosts advised him to be relaxed that there’s no such thing, trying to coax him to stay as much as he could. He finally agreed and in a few minutes’ time, the shooters appeared.
Examples of flashback writings in film and literature
- The children’s movie UP is the story of an older man who has a flashback as he remembers the meeting with his wife and marries her, which helps them better understand why he doesn’t want to leave the house they shared.
- Wuthering heights begins, and Cathy is dead. Much of the action in the story is a flashback from that point—so we can say it’s a flashback story.
As you see through the good flashback writing examples given, a flashback is a pretty important tool most writers use to put together a story. And not only does it give the reader more insight into the characters, but it offers context for a situation.
That said, an important thing to note is, once you’ve written your flashback scene, make sure you double-check that it’s completely relevant to the later story. For a murder mystery novel, a good flashback writing scene might offer important clues regarding the killer’s identity.
In a character-driven family saga, it could show a formative intimate relationship, confrontation, a conversation that shapes your character’s overall look as the story progresses.
Do make sure that your flashback scene draws your reader’s attention towards the key element, which will deepen your reader’s understanding of key later scenes. In such a way, your story will feel more understandable even if the set narrative doesn’t follow the flow of the timeline.