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AllyWoof
12-20-2006, 12:03 AM
I have always wondered why writing flashbacks, or anything close to that type of thing is so difficult. I wrote a reflection at the start of my story and then posted it for opinions. Most said it gave too much info right away. Some people say that is a good idea. How do I know who's correct?

Judg
12-20-2006, 12:12 AM
Find out what they like to read. I read an excerpt from a book that had me gagging, it was so overloaded with metaphors and similes and adjectives and adverbs and emotion... Another published author praised her lyrical style in the blurb. But they were both romance writers, and that's a genre that I rarely enjoy reading. So if somebody who actually enjoyed that stuff gave me advice, I'd be inclined to say "thank you very much" and ignore it. At least on stylistic issues.

BTW, unless it's Jack, lemon has only one m.

AllyWoof
12-20-2006, 12:16 AM
Opps. I guess I could fix that. Also, you're probably right. I will be getting a lot of varied opinions on this one. I figured this was a good thing for all us writers to ponder, though.

PeeDee
12-20-2006, 12:52 AM
Too many flashbacks are used as infodumps, and there should be a law against that. Marcy comes into Joe's life, and then just after she says hi, we get a five-page flashback indicating how they broke up two years ago. It breaks the flow of the story we're interested in (set in the present) and dumps us into a melodramatic scene that we don't have the background to care about yet.

Done well, flashbacks are fine. Done poorly, they're tedious and easily skippable, because they're the italicized chunk of text.

AllyWoof
12-20-2006, 12:54 AM
I never really looked at it that way before.

writerterri
12-20-2006, 12:00 PM
I enjoy writing info dumps, I can't really get into it.

MacAllister
12-20-2006, 12:28 PM
The thing about flashbacks is that you've got to control time in what you're writing really well to be able to pull it off--else you just confuse your reader about what to be paying most attention to.

Higgins
12-20-2006, 05:46 PM
I have always wondered why writing flashbacks, or anything close to that type of thing is so difficult. I wrote a reflection at the start of my story and then posted it for opinions. Most said it gave too much info right away. Some people say that is a good idea. How do I know who's correct?

I've been using some digressions, as in Character A "tells" (or rather is told as showing or telling as showing) their version of what characters B, C, D, E, F G all missed.

Can be comical and dramatic as the B > G all complain about things in the narrative....

AllyWoof
12-20-2006, 05:56 PM
It is interesting to see how we all feel differently about the same thing.

Pat~
12-20-2006, 06:50 PM
To be effective, flashbacks should be just that--a flash back. Not 5 pages. I used some personal flashbacks in a book I wrote for women dealing with depression, and found I had to use just glimpses--otherwise it was too much. No more than a paragraph in each instance (though I suppose that could vary depending on the book).

Elodie-Caroline
12-20-2006, 07:42 PM
I've written a flashback, it's seven pages long; but it is very relevant to the story, as it shows where the person is coming from. But I wrote it in a way that it looks like a story within the story -- a sub-plot I guess.
I've also written about the younger life of a serial killer-rapist in another of my WIPS; I saw this as relevant too, that's like another story within the story.

If info dumps are needed for the story then I write them; if people don't read them, then they don't know the person whom I'm writing about. I wouldn't trail off from telling a part of the story into a few sentences of info dumping though. On one WIP it's done as a life-story done on the internet that one of my MCs is reading; in the other it's a separate chapter once the serial killer has been done in.

Ellie

engmajor2005
12-21-2006, 01:44 AM
I never write flashbacks. Never. I want to make sure that the reader knows what's going on at all times. If I need to bring in backstory, it will be revealed in conversation (which brings up it's own challenges; you want dialogue to be logical). But I never write flashbacks.

That may seem like wimping out, but I give you this parable:

The knight looks at his squire and says "My man, what way is best for slaying this dragon?"

The squire looks at the dragon and says "The dragon is best slayed by letting it die of old age, my good sir."

PeeDee
12-21-2006, 01:47 AM
There aren't really any flashbacks in real life, nor do people generally share long and eloquent life stories with each other. At least, not outside of a bar at closing time. I don't expect anything different from my fiction. Not without seeming like cheating, anyway.

ChaosTitan
12-21-2006, 01:52 AM
I have written flashbacks in several novels, but during revision I tend to find ways to incorporate them into the story in a way other than as a traditional "flashback."

I disguised one rather lengthy flashback of a main character's Angsty Childhood Trauma as a living nightmare induced by a serial killer who kills in people's dreams.

Another became a conversation between brothers, rather than a definative flashback of events.

As a reader, I tend to prefer getting my information that way, but if a writer can skillfully include an actual "flashback," I don't mind them. I may even have one or two of my own hanging around someplace. ;)

Elodie-Caroline
12-21-2006, 03:05 AM
But characters are like real people in the stories; they have a background. The background of anyone is what makes them whom they are now. Maybe what makes a persom whom they are isn't important to some people, but it's important to me and so I shall use it to get my stories across as they are meant. Without a background, it's like taking someone at face value -- I never take anyone at face value, I like to know how they tick.

Ellie


There aren't really any flashbacks in real life, nor do people generally share long and eloquent life stories with each other. At least, not outside of a bar at closing time. I don't expect anything different from my fiction. Not without seeming like cheating, anyway.

PeeDee
12-21-2006, 03:13 AM
But characters are like real people in the stories; they have a background. The background of anyone is what makes them whom they are now. Maybe what makes a persom whom they are isn't important to some people, but it's important to me and so I shall use it to get my stories across as they are meant. Without a background, it's like taking someone at face value -- I never take anyone at face value, I like to know how they tick.

Ellie

Of course. But I don't know if you find out anything bout how they tick by saying to them "Tell me about an interesting and mysterious event which occured to you five years ago, please." Rather, you'd find out how they're ticking by watching them talk, move, and react. You'd find out about their past when, for example, someone talks about a lovely time they had on a Carribbean cruise and they point out that they used to live there. Maybe they share some memories and it's a warm conversation. Maybe they're very quiet about it, and you realize they didn't enjoy living there at all.

Anyway, if you want to write flashbacks, write flashbacks. I'm not trying to change your mind or convert you. I'm just talking.

Elodie-Caroline
12-21-2006, 04:05 AM
Well Pee Dee. I guess with 7 pages of back-story in one of my WIPs, it would be more like a drag-back eh? lol ;) But the kind of things I've written about aren't the sort of things you'd bring up at a dinner party. I couldn't really imagine a serial killer sat in McDonald's and telling his latest victim (before he done her in) what a perverted and monstrous mind he had... Hmm, there again, taking her to Macdonald's might show her that he was sadistic anyway LOL.
To me there's things you can drop into a conversation, then there's other bits that people would find too hard to tell someone; like in another thread -- I have a secret that I wouldn't even tell my nearest and dearest, I guess my characters are a bit like me in that respect. Maybe people wouldn't enjoy reading my flashback bits as much as I enjoyed writing it; if not, I'd just have to put it down to experience and call it a writing exercise. I'm not trying to get on your case, I'm just trying to explain mine a bit ok :)

Ellie


Anyway, if you want to write flashbacks, write flashbacks. I'm not trying to change your mind or convert you. I'm just talking.

Linda Adams
12-21-2006, 05:15 AM
Most said it gave too much info right away. Some people say that is a good idea.

I can see where some people say they want to see it all up front. I've run into people who say they want an info dump up front to explain everything to them. A flashback, as others have stated is often used as an info dump to explain the backstory. A lot of writers will start a story, get a paragraph or two in, and just as the reader is getting involved, do a flashback. The story has barely gotten started and instead of moving forward, it's moving backwards.

If people are telling you it gives too much away up front, it probably does. One of the biggest problems of flashbacks (and info dumps) is that they do give all the information up front, robbing the story of suspense and tension opportunities.