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Flashbacks, how to - Input Junkie
October 9th, 2012
09:13 am

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Flashbacks, how to
I recently saw a writer asking whether flashbacks should go forward in time or backwards, and it occurred to me that I've never seen a discussion of flashbbacks.

Are there good discussions of the subject, either from the readerly or writerly point of view?

What I want from a flashback is mostly that it should be a good story in itself, and I'm amazed at how involved I can get in a flashback, even if I know how it's going to turn out.

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From:redaxe
Date:October 9th, 2012 01:24 pm (UTC)
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Beyond being a good story in itself, it needs to fit in some way with the larger story, either advancing or explaining stuff it would be hard to deal with in the present.

Sorry, I don't know of any good specific discussions of the topic.
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From:sodyera
Date:October 9th, 2012 02:28 pm (UTC)
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I've seen stories that have told complete stories backwards with progressive flashbacks. It doesn't matter which way a flashback moves in relative time to the overall story. The only thing it has to do is give you information you could not have been told in any other way. It helps tremendously if the flashback is entertaining.
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From:madfilkentist
Date:October 9th, 2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
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I agree except that I consider being entertaining a requirement. Otherwise it's just an infodump.
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From:carbonel
Date:October 9th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
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Patricia Wrede's blog just had a post a day or two ago about frame stories, of which flashbacks are a subset.
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From:agrumer
Date:October 9th, 2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
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For pretty much everything that person asks, the answer is "It depends on the needs of the story; use your judgment and artistic sensibilities."

The exception is the question about using still-living people. The answer to that one is "How well prepared are you for a lawsuit?"
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From:nancylebov
Date:October 9th, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)
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I think it can help to have names for various aspects of a story, and knowledge of how various features have worked in successful stories.
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From:harvey_rrit
Date:October 9th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
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I surmise that you are not asking for some pest to nitpick about the terms "flashback" and "flashforward".

So I needed a moment to reset.

I've never used either so far. There are stories that use them well (DOORWAYS IN THE SAND, Roger Zelazny turns each chapter inside out as a conceptual pun) and stories that apparently use them to be Artistic (do not have drugs, guns, or sharp objects around while reading Homer's ILIAD or you may spontaneously kill yourself rather than try to figure out what $&#**^% day it is).

My recommendation to someone who plans to write for publication is this:

Do what works.

If you go back and read it and it makes the story clearer and more interesting, you're good.

Do bear in mind that there are different kinds of interesting. Consider that--

Just a moment. Swallow anything you're eating or drinking.

--Consider that Doctor Doom, who narrates his life (in the third person, yet) as he goes along, has no children.
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From:harvey_rrit
Date:October 10th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
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Okay I held out over eight hours here:

"And now Doom removes the brassiere!"

"Um, I just remembered an appointment."

What I'm saying here is that narrative can be overdone.
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From:agrumer
Date:October 10th, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
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I think maybe someone needs to write Fifty Shades of Doom.
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From:harvey_rrit
Date:October 11th, 2012 02:17 am (UTC)
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*FLINCH*

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