A flashback is a scene set in a time earlier than the main story.
Sometimes when you are telling a story, or writing a story, you need to backtrack and tell what happened previously.
A flashback is a shift in a narrative to an earlier event that interrupts the normal chronological development of a story.
From Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld: “With flashback, you want to focus on action, information, and character interactions.”
Flashback can also be thought of as backstory.
Use flashbacks to explain, enlighten, and inform.
An example is What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg. The story takes place during a woman’s travels to meet her sister and mother. We learn what happened thirty-five years prior through flashbacks while the woman travels in space.
Other examples of using flashback to tell a story:
To Kill a Mockingbird: The whole story is a flashback told by Scout a few years after the scenes take place. The first sentence of the book indicates the timeframe. “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”
Saving Private Ryan: The movie starts out with an elderly man walking in a cemetery in Normandy. He then has a flashback of WWII.
Titanic is told from an elderly lady’s point of view. We move from present time of her telling the story and the resurrection of the ship to what happened years previously.
Think for a moment about a movie or story you have read where flashbacks are used to tell a story.
How to incorporate flashbacks into your writing: Use past tense. “She revealed . . .” “We had just gone to . . .”
Prompt: What is the most fearless thing you have done? But . . . here’s the twist. . . start your story in the present time period. Then, go back in time to tell what happened.
For example: Today, I’m afraid of spiders because of the time . . .
I know I can accomplish such and such because when I was . . .
Go for it! Just write!