Thursday, October 22, 2009

Flash Backs in Fiction

Memories.  Every three-dimensional character has them.  But it's not always easy for writers to portray them.  Even in some books that have made it to publication, the flashbacks seem forced and bring a reader outside of the story all together because of the artificial flow in the writing.

It's important to have a smooth ease of transaction between the present time of the story and the memories recalled by the character.  And there's a very, very simple way to do this.  I call it "Object-Action".  Here's how it works:

Give your character an object in the present story.  Make your character perform some sort of action on that object right before slipping into the flashback.  Then, to come out of the flashback, make your character do another (or the same) action to the object.

For example.  In the present scene, your main character is drinking a cup of tea.  She remembers a a romantic moment.  To bring her back to the present, have her take another sip of tea.

Perhaps your character is eating an apple.  She flashes back to a dream she had the night before.  She was an exotic princess.  Bring her back to the present scene with the sound of the crunch as she chews the apple.

Or your character is at work.  Bored and reading a newspaper.  He easily slips into the memory of his glory days as a star football player.  Want to come back to the present?  Have him flip a page and realize he has no idea what he's just read.

Make sense?  Let me know if you have any questions!!

♥ me


  1. Hey. This is helpful, Sara. Thanks!

  2. It's a very useful mechanism to use Sara. To extend it a little, there may be a requirement where for a while, for the sake of suspense, you don't want your readers to realise that an episode is actually a flashback.
    This can be achieved by combining your object-action mechanism with a chapter break. The first action will pass almost unnoticed if mentioned at the end of a chapter. The following chapter can then relate the incidents in the flashback without it being apparant to the reader that it is actually a flashback, until the point when your character continues with the second part of the object-action, at which point realisation will dawn, hopefully to the appreciation of the reader.

  3. That was very thought-provoking as I've always had trouble with flashbacks, of which I have had to include many in my book.

    You make it sound easy :)

    May have to revisit a few passed events I've contrived and check they make sense.

    Good post :)

  4. Hey thanks everyone!!

    Dave - you are absolutely correct. I haven't tried that before.

    I think the most important part, no matter how they slip into the flashback at first, is the action to the object when coming back to the present...


Yay! I love when you have things to add :)