Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Flashbacks - writing tip

Question: My book has a lot of flashbacks It has been turned down by several agents with a "too many flashbacks" note. But what happens in the past is important to my story. How do I tell that without using flashbacks?

Answer: Well, I can't say this about yours, not having read the ms., but one thing we often see in manuscripts with flashbacks is that the translitions are not always clear. It's important never to let the reader be confused about when something happened....

Flashbacks also tend to distance the reader from the action. Useful for child murders, if you don't want the reader to feel it too keenly, but it does distance them.

Therefore, I believe it's good policy not to put anything in flashback, unless you have information that can't be told any other way, or action that can't be shown sequentially. Instead, use mini-flashbacks to relate action that happens before the beginning of the story, and is too previous to be moved to a later time frame.

Just in case I need to explain, the difference between a real flashback, which is a whole scene shown out of time sequence, and a mini-flashback, which is having a character remember something that happened in the past for a line or two, then going on with the present scene, has to do with the importance of the information conveyed.

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