The Writer’s Bag of Tricks
Admittedly, I am not a fan of the flashback scene, generally, because these tend to be written poorly and (mostly because I am in a snarky mood), end up being a huge information dump of weighed down cumbersome luggage. They wallow in or lean toward boring, and usually, the information contained in a flashback scene can be spooned into the prose where necessary.
Sometimes flashbacks are done well. And since we are talking about writing in scenes, and I want you to write your flashback scene well, in spite of my snarky temperament, it’s time to highlight the flashback.
What is a flashback scene?
A flashback scene is a scene that shows your character's backstory to the reader. Backstory is your character’s history prior to the beginning of your novel and it is backstory that runs the risk of sucking your reader out of the present moment in your book.
A flashback scene should still contain all of the necessary elements of a good scene: setting, characters, movement, conflict, and tension etc.
A good flashback scene should be used infrequently, should be short, and be as quickly paced as possible. Most importantly, the flashback scene needs to be there for a reason. If it is just there to tell your reader about your character’s past, think about other ways to portray this information to your reader.
• Create a clear transition so your reader knows that they are reading a flashback.
• Use past tense
• Show a specific incident or use memories of specific incidents.
• Make sure the flashback scene is tied to the current plot point.
At the end of your flashback, provide your reader with a clear transition back to the present plot. If you don’t provide a clear transition, you risk confusing your reader.
Next time: Less snark. More scene writing.