Flashback

KingMusa

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Can someone please tell me how to properly start/end a flashback?

The way I do is, I'll put "(flashback)" then write the flash back, and at the end is the flashback ill write "(flashback over)". If you guys could give me some tips, that would be greatly appreciated!

THANK YOU!
 
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WasatchWind

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Can someone please tell me how to properly start/end a flashback?

The way I do is, I'll put "(flashback)" then write the flash back, and at the end is the flashback ill write "(flashback over)". If you guys could give me some tips, that would be greatly appreciated!

THANK YOU!
As in all writing, one has to keep in mind the caveat that there aren't any rules. There are expectations. In online writing, something like directly telegraphing flashbacks is not an issue.

However, in published works, flashbacks are usually done by starting a chapter with something like "Ten years ago".

Then the chapter may end when the flashback does, or the flashback may end with a line of separating symbols (like asterisks) and then the rest of the chapter continues in the present.
 

CL

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Can someone please tell me how to properly start/end a flashback?

The way I do is, I'll put "(flashback)" then write the flash back, and at the end is the flashback ill write "(flashback over)". If you guys could give me some tips, that would be greatly appreciated!

THANK YOU!
As in the "correct" method? There is a right way to do this? Oh boy... :sweating_profusely:
 

MadmanRB

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As in the "correct" method? There is a right way to do this? Oh boy... :sweating_profusely:
No no it depends on what you are writing and how it's placed into your story.
There is no wrong way as long as it fits into your story.
All you have to do is something like this (example):
Joe was at the park feeding the birds, as he flung pieces of bread on the ground he began to remember his time with his late wife...

And have the flashback here somewhere, again just an example.
You don't necessarily have to start with the exact date or anything or use (Flashback) insert flashback here (end flashback)
That is more of a script format, not a literary one.
 

CL

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No no it depends on what you are writing and how it's placed into your story.
There is no wrong way as long as it fits into your story.
All you have to do is something like this (example):
Joe was at the park feeding the birds, as he flung pieces of bread on the ground he began to remember his time with his late wife...

And have the flashback here somewhere, again just an example.
You don't necessarily have to start with the exact date or anything.
That sounded pretty good. Thanks for the tip (the fitting in with the narrative advice) and presenting us with an example. :blob_cookie:
 

MadmanRB

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No prob, again doing the (Flashback) insert flashback here (end flashback) is more of a script thing, this isnt a script right?
If not forget about it just use a small indicator like an ellipsis or something to indicate a change of scenery.
 

Horizon42

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Can someone please tell me how to properly start/end a flashback?

The way I do is, I'll put "(flashback)" then write the flash back, and at the end is the flashback ill write "(flashback over)". If you guys could give me some tips, that would be greatly appreciated!

THANK YOU!

I find that there are generally 2 good ways to start a flashback, both are implicit.

1. It's directly at the start of the chapter, but it's in italics or it's bolded. Maybe it's in parentheses. It ends when the scene suddenly shifts back into the current scene (pre-flashback) where all the italics, holding, or other mumbo-jumbo stops. This would work well if a character is having a nostalgic or traumatic moment where they still have control of themselves, but you want to introduce exposition in the middle of something.

2. Have an event as a catalyst. The previous chapter could involve the character getting hit with a spell or being knocked out. You can have an outside perspective view it if you want. The change between the flashback and current narrative still should be abrupt and noticeable. Creating a separate chapter for the flashback might be a thing if you use this method.


But honestly, it's best to use it as a starter for the story. There are usually better ways to show what you want to tell.
 

MadmanRB

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But honestly, it's best to use it as a starter for the story. There are usually better ways to show what you want to tell.

Eh, not all the time, in the proper hands a well-timed flashback sequence can work given the circumstances even if it's not at the start of the story.
 

Sylvie

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The best way to go about it is to start with a character's reminiscence about the past or someone recounting a story of the past.
To end it, you can bring out one of the character's current thoughts or in the case of a retelling it can be someone else who gives an opinion on the story so the flashback naturally ends.

The bigger problem comes about when you want to recount something that isn't known or doesn't involve your characters. In this case you can either dedicate a chapter to it or it can be separated by a row of asterisks. If you opt for this, be sure to use phrases like "back then....", "before the XXX event things were like........." or "in XXX period....." early in the flashback to let readers know that it will be an event that occurred in the past instead of outright mentioning "flashback".
 

OvidLemma

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It all depends on your writing style. I write long-ish chapters (usually split into halves here on SH) with 3-4 sub-sections per chapter. Usually, I will have a segue at the end of one section and then transition into the flashback in the next section. Something like:

"Remember that time we pulled off a no-shit bank heist?" Gordon asked.

Rain spattered against the windshield and the wipers groaned. Alice glanced at her brother and sighed. "How could I possibly forget?"

--------

Five years ago, Gordon had come back into Alice's life after two years of absolutely no contact. He pounded on her apartment door at two in the morning, and she'd been about five seconds away from calling the cops when she recognized his unshaven, oil-smudged face through the grimy peephole of her front door.

"What the fuck do you want, Gord?" she shouted through the door.

"They have her. They have Sarah," he said, gasping for breath.

Alice, of course, had no clue who the fuck Sarah was. Despite that, she unlocked her door and opened it, glowering at her brother.
 

BenJepheneT

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But honestly, it's best to use it as a starter for the story. There are usually better ways to show what you want to tell
The other end of the spectrum for this is a flashback that seems like its made up halfway through the story as some half-assed justification for the story's previous actions, usually ending up seeming like a hindrance to the pace of the plot.

as long as you know where to put it and keep your plot's momentum in mind, you'd be golden
 

Horizon42

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Eh, not all the time, in the proper hands a well-timed flashback sequence can work given the circumstances even if it's not at the start of the story.
It can be done well, but there are better ways to communicate whatever yoy are trying to tell. Unless the very idea of there being a flashback is somehow connected to a theme of the story, then it has limited use. Writing devices often need multiple facets and dimensions. They should accomplish multiple goals at the same time. A flashback simply can't do a whole lot in most cases.
 

MadmanRB

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Unless the very idea of there being a flashback is somehow connected to a theme of the story, then it has limited use.
Well this is usually how I do it, I mean yes I have seen some poorly done flashbacks that seem irrelevant and nonsensical but if I feel I can work it in without it feeling out of place.
I so far have done it for two characters and both in the first-person narrative and I had a good reason for doing it each time.
The first was for a supporting character who has a key role in my series, he is pretty darned important for a non-main character and his backstory relates to my heroes in many ways.
The second is for one of my main characters who I don't introduce until the second half of my story arc, I figured using flashbacks and third person would help my audience get into his head and empathize with him more.
After all his character arrives rather late, so I need to make him feel natural before I make him a main character.
 

Horizon42

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Well this is usually how I do it, I mean yes I have seen some poorly done flashbacks that seem irrelevant and nonsensical but if I feel I can work it in without it feeling out of place.
I so far have done it for two characters and both in the first-person narrative and I had a good reason for doing it each time.
The first was for a supporting character who has a key role in my series, he is pretty darned important for a non-main character and his backstory relates to my heroes in many ways.
The second is for one of my main characters who I don't introduce until the second half of my story arc, I figured using flashbacks and third person would help my audience get into his head and empathize with him more.
After all his character arrives rather late, so I need to make him feel natural before I make him a main character.
Those are good reasons logically, but how does it deliver emotional weight? How memorable was it? How does it push the narrative forward? I haven't read your work, but flashbacks will almost always grind the overall narrative to a halt for the sake of exposition. They destroy the overall pacing of the novel, which is why I'm saying there are better ways to show what you want to tell. You can certainly reduce the negatives, but only to a certain point.
 

MadmanRB

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Those are good reasons logically, but how does it deliver emotional weight? How memorable was it? How does it push the narrative forward? I haven't read your work, but flashbacks will almost always grind the overall narrative to a halt for the sake of exposition. They destroy the overall pacing of the novel, which is why I'm saying there are better ways to show what you want to tell. You can certainly reduce the negatives, but only to a certain point.
Well the emotional weight is that both flashbacks have something dark or tragic happen to the characters involved and or have those events matter to the story.
I mean yes there are going to be times when it reads like exposition but even so I try to make it resonate beyond giving plot dumps.
Even flashbacks that are exposition dumps can be written well if given the right circumstances.
Batman Begins does this fairly well
as does the Avatar the Last Airbender episode "the Storm"
I am unsure what property you are familiar with here but both use flashbacks to great effect as a method of storytelling.
The Same goes for the movie Forrest Gump
Heck even the movie Airplane does this right even if it's a comedy
 

Horizon42

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Well the emotional weight is that both flashbacks have something dark or tragic happen to the characters involved and or have those events matter to the story.
I mean yes there are going to be times when it reads like exposition but even so I try to make it resonate beyond giving plot dumps.
Even flashbacks that are exposition dumps can be written well if given the right circumstances.
Batman Begins does this fairly well
as does the Avatar the Last Airbender episode "the Storm"
I am unsure what property you are familiar with here but both use flashbacks to great effect as a method of storytelling.
The Same goes for the movie Forrest Gump
Heck even the movie Airplane does this right even if it's a comedy
Yes those flashbacks are done well. Flashbacks are almost always used to deliver exposition, but the focus should be taken away from the exposition in most cases. It's usually easier to deliver this in visual stimulus, though there are exceptions. The flashback isn't as important as what is around the flashback. Like with everything in writing, it can be done we'll, but there are often better ways to deliver exposition than a flashback.
 

MadmanRB

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Yes those flashbacks are done well. Flashbacks are almost always used to deliver exposition, but the focus should be taken away from the exposition in most cases. It's usually easier to deliver this in visual stimulus, though there are exceptions. The flashback isn't as important as what is around the flashback. Like with everything in writing, it can be done we'll, but there are often better ways to deliver exposition than a flashback.

Yeah I get you, still no need to fear a flashback sequence now and then as long as they don't bog anything down and have deep meaning for the characters.
When a comedy like Airplane can do it without it feeling out-of-place anything is possible.
 
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