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View Full Version : Flashbacks... Should They Be Italicized?


Margarita Skies
04-26-2010, 09:51 PM
Hello. How are you all doing?


I came here for help because I am about to write a flashback scene in my WIP, but I'm having trouble because I don't know if flashbacks should be italicized or if there's something that has to be done to set them apart from the other scenes.


ETA: While I'm at it, I should go ahead and ask the same question for dream sequences, if there's something that should be done to set them apart from other scenes.


I will be waiting for your responses and they will be greatly appreciated.
Love
Magali.

Lady Ice
04-26-2010, 09:58 PM
I wouldn't italicise them personally. It should be obvious to the reader that it's a flashback; they probably will get it, don't worry.

shadowwalker
04-26-2010, 10:03 PM
I'd stay away from the italics as well - especially if the flashback is more than a couple sentences. Very hard on the eyes. As Lady Ice said, it should be obvious without.

Margarita Skies
04-26-2010, 10:06 PM
I wouldn't italicise them personally. It should be obvious to the reader that it's a flashback; they probably will get it, don't worry.


Ok, thank you!! I'm going to go ahead and write the flashback scene and then I'm going to go watch Days of Our Lives. When Days is over, I'm going to come back to this thread to see if there are any other suggestions and then I'm going to go back to the scene to do what other future posters have suggested.


Thanks so much!

The Lonely One
04-26-2010, 10:11 PM
I'd say also not to italicise, as doing so would usually be unnecessary unless it is interspersed confusingly (like every few lines it switches back and forth or something).

Usually through context readers can figure it out, if you've written clearly.

CraftyCreations411
04-26-2010, 10:21 PM
I don't know the specifics. I'm busy learning but in my book, because of the lengths, I gave them their own chapters and titled them along of flashback to xxxxxxxx (whatever.)

It's a thought.

Candy

CraftyCreations411
04-26-2010, 10:22 PM
Oops, meant to say that I gave my flashbacks their own chapter.

Candy

dpaterso
04-26-2010, 10:31 PM
I've used italics for flashbacks before and it's worked fine. What probably prompted me to do so was seeing italics used in flashbacks in many published stories. I've also seen flashbacks that weren't italicized. So, use them or don't use them, it's your choice. And ditto for dream sequences.

-Derek

Margarita Skies
04-26-2010, 11:40 PM
Thanks everyone! Based on your advice I've chosen not to italicize my flashback. You're wonderful.

Danthia
04-27-2010, 01:40 AM
I use italics for short flashbacks, but it never goes more than half a page, because italics are harder to read. I've found it works well for short dramatized lines, then I go into a more traditional narrative to continue it.

Such as...

It was just like before, the day Sally died.
"So, this is what killed her?" the sheriff asked.
I nodded, too stunned to speak. Zombies. She'd been eaten by zombies.
The sheriff hadn't believed me of course, said I was crazy, had killed her myself, but I knew better.

The mix works for me because you get the sense of immediacy and intimacy with the italics, then flesh it out with a bit of internalization.

But you can do it any way you'd like, really. As long as you make it clear that you're going into a flashback, you should be fine.

Oppsy, hehe, I posted before I saw the decision was made :) Guess I'm the minority!

defyalllogic
04-27-2010, 01:53 AM
italicize them so they know where they are. I personally hate them so i like to know where they are so i can skip them... no offense. I'm sure yours are different but i want to be IN the story not day dreaming. they feel like commercial breaks to me so if you kindly italicize them i can Tivo style skip them.

*Personal Preference*

I use italics for short flashbacks, but it never goes more than half a page, because italics are harder to read.
i don't know why everyone can't see that or be as kind to my eyes. if i have to read six pages of italics... oh wait I don't have to do anything, i'm skipping ahead. Italics are Hard to Read.

Dr.Gonzo
04-27-2010, 02:40 AM
If it's a lengthy flashback, I'd lead into it by starting to describe it/scene break/then write it as if I'm there.

Margarita Skies
04-27-2010, 03:03 AM
If it's a lengthy flashback, I'd lead into it by starting to describe it/scene break/then write it as if I'm there.

How do you do a scene break?

Dr.Gonzo
04-27-2010, 03:08 AM
Leave a gap between paragraphs.

Margarita Skies
04-27-2010, 03:09 AM
Leave a gap between paragraphs.


Will do. Thanks. :)

dpaterso
04-27-2010, 03:10 AM
Most guidelines I've read say center a # to indicate scene break.

#

-Derek

Dr.Gonzo
04-27-2010, 03:20 AM
Yep, very true. Have one of those in said gap and you'll be fine.

Margarita Skies
04-27-2010, 03:35 AM
Most guidelines I've read say center a # to indicate scene break.

#

-Derek


I will do exactly that! Thank you so much! :)



Yep, very true. Have one of those in said gap and you'll be fine.


Wow, thank you so much for all your help! I know how to write flashbacks now, although I will barely use them. I hereby consider this question solved. :) Thanks a million, everyone!! :D You're all amazing!


-Magali.

PoppysInARow
04-27-2010, 08:02 AM
Personally, I use --- to indicate scene breaks.

---

I've never had an agent criticise me for it. So long as it makes sense and not over the top.

*

Would work too.

And I jumped on board with everyone about the italics issue. Short and sweet win's fair agent's heart!

SadieCass
04-27-2010, 08:12 AM
I've always done flashbacks and 'letters' in italics. For my current novels flashbacks and letters are a big part of them (my MC has amnesia and when things are revealed it's often through a letter or a short flashback). I never thought they were hard to read (for me personally, but I also don't seem to get screen fatigue), now you all have me worried *lol* Well for this draft I'll keep them as is, but I may change it in final edits!!

(hooray for enlightenment)

Margarita Skies
04-27-2010, 08:23 AM
Personally, I use --- to indicate scene breaks.

---

I've never had an agent criticise me for it. So long as it makes sense and not over the top.

*

Would work too.

And I jumped on board with everyone about the italics issue. Short and sweet win's fair agent's heart!


That's original. I've never seen a scene break like that. :)


I've always done flashbacks and 'letters' in italics. For my current novels flashbacks and letters are a big part of them (my MC has amnesia and when things are revealed it's often through a letter or a short flashback). I never thought they were hard to read (for me personally, but I also don't seem to get screen fatigue), now you all have me worried *lol* Well for this draft I'll keep them as is, but I may change it in final edits!!

(hooray for enlightenment)


I remember only adding letters between my characters in 5 of my works and what I do is center them and write them in capital letters because that's what I've seen in other books. Thanks for the suggestion, though. That is a great idea.

shaldna
04-27-2010, 01:25 PM
if it's more than a line to two then no. Italics are very hard to read and the last thing you want is for someone to be annoyed with three pages of iltalics.

That said, the publisher will make that decision when it comes to formatting. So I wouldn't worry about it.

dpaterso
04-27-2010, 01:34 PM
Must say, this all sounds rather odd to me, I've never had a problem with reading italics and don't skip text just because it's printed in italics. Maybe this is some kind of "overcritical writer" quirk or conceit, I dunno. Just bizarre.

-Derek

shadowwalker
04-27-2010, 01:37 PM
Must say, this all sounds rather odd to me, I've never had a problem with reading italics and don't skip text just because it's printed in italics. Maybe this is some kind of "overcritical writer" quirk or conceit, I dunno. Just bizarre.

-Derek

I think a lot of it depends on the size print, as well. I do have a hard time getting through lengthy italics, and it has nothing to do with being overcritical. It has to do with headaches :tongue

dpaterso
04-27-2010, 01:46 PM
I think a lot of it depends on the size print, as well. I do have a hard time getting through lengthy italics, and it has nothing to do with being overcritical. It has to do with headaches :tongue
That there's a good solid logical reason, which I can cope with. :)

Tho' text size doesn't tend to vary in novels just because there's a switch to italics. If I can read non-italic text, I can read italic text too.

-Derek

Dr.Gonzo
04-27-2010, 02:14 PM
It's not the italics that bother me, but what they represent. I've read countless novels where italics dominate sections of the book, whole chapters with next to nothing to do with the main story. Sometimes they do, but it's deep under my skin now, so that every time I turn a page and see italics, my stomach turns and reading on becomes somewhat harder.

dpaterso
04-27-2010, 03:12 PM
Can't argue with that! Sure, sometimes too much can be too much. And sometimes they're not needed, at all. Judging when and where appropriate, and in what quantity, would seem to be the trick.

-Derek

shaldna
04-27-2010, 03:27 PM
Judging when and where appropriate, and in what quantity, would seem to be the trick.

-Derek


Ah, and if we knew that then we could rule this world.

bonitakale
04-27-2010, 07:28 PM
I'm another who finds italics hard to read, partly because they're all skinny and slanty, and partly because my mind wants to emphasize them.

A problem with long sections in italics is that if you should want to use italics for another reason, you have to use regular type, and it doesn't show up at all well:

Dear Amy,

Well, here I am on the star ship Enterprise. The food is okay; I haven't made any friends yet, but I saw Captain Kirk in the corridor near sickbay! We're going to be warping out pretty soon, so I just wanted to let you know...

Margarita Skies
04-27-2010, 10:11 PM
if it's more than a line to two then no. Italics are very hard to read and the last thing you want is for someone to be annoyed with three pages of iltalics.

That said, the publisher will make that decision when it comes to formatting. So I wouldn't worry about it.

I didn't think about that. Thank you so much! :)


Must say, this all sounds rather odd to me, I've never had a problem with reading italics and don't skip text just because it's printed in italics. Maybe this is some kind of "overcritical writer" quirk or conceit, I dunno. Just bizarre.

-Derek


I don't mind reading italics in other authors' works, but I do worry about what my readers would think if I wrote a page or several pages in italics for whatever reason. :) Thanks for all your help, Derek!


I think a lot of it depends on the size print, as well. I do have a hard time getting through lengthy italics, and it has nothing to do with being overcritical. It has to do with headaches :tongue


That's another thing I worry about, causing readers headaches.


That there's a good solid logical reason, which I can cope with. :)

Tho' text size doesn't tend to vary in novels just because there's a switch to italics. If I can read non-italic text, I can read italic text too.

-Derek


:D

Margarita Skies
04-27-2010, 10:16 PM
It's not the italics that bother me, but what they represent. I've read countless novels where italics dominate sections of the book, whole chapters with next to nothing to do with the main story. Sometimes they do, but it's deep under my skin now, so that every time I turn a page and see italics, my stomach turns and reading on becomes somewhat harder.


Good point. :)


Can't argue with that! Sure, sometimes too much can be too much. And sometimes they're not needed, at all. Judging when and where appropriate, and in what quantity, would seem to be the trick.

-Derek


Exactly! :)


Ah, and if we knew that then we could rule this world.


Yes! Wouldn't that be awesome? :D


I'm another who finds italics hard to read, partly because they're all skinny and slanty, and partly because my mind wants to emphasize them.

A problem with long sections in italics is that if you should want to use italics for another reason, you have to use regular type, and it doesn't show up at all well:

Dear Amy,

Well, here I am on the star ship Enterprise. The food is okay; I haven't made any friends yet, but I saw Captain Kirk in the corridor near sickbay! We're going to be warping out pretty soon, so I just wanted to let you know...


Yes, that example that you used in a character's italicized letter to another character and having to write in normal text what should really be italicized...yes, I agree with you 100%. It does not look good. That's why I write the letters that my characters write to one another in capital letters, although I'm not sure if that's the correct way to do it, but I don't know of any other way to separate characters' letters from other scenes.