A flashback in a novel is a scene that takes place before the story begins, taking the reader back to a situation or event that happened in the past. Flashbacks can work really well to give context or explain motivation, but they need to be written really carefully.
- Make sure a flashback follows a strong scene. Flashbacks can be problematic in that they remove your character and therefore your reader from the action in your narrative. A strong preceding scene can ensure that the narrative is sustained.
- Ensure your reader knows exactly where and when they are. Make the transition into the past clear.
- Use the correct verb tense. If your main narrative is written in past tense, then the first sentences of the flashback should be in past perfect. You can then continue in simple past.
- When the flashback is over, make sure the transition to the ‘present’ of the narrative is smooth and clear, so that your reader isn’t confused or disorientated.
- Acknowledge the flashback. It should have an effect on the character who experienced it and on the narrative.
I am an experienced editor, and have worked on more than five hundred projects in a variety of genres including dystopian, romance, memoir, erotica, YA, fantasy, short stories, poetry and business. I am happy to edit in either UK or US English.
I have a first degree in English Language and Literature and a master’s degree in creative writing.
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