The Flashback

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The Flashback

PostPosted by kaidan K » Sat Dec 10, 2011 9:20 pm

It's good a lot of times to try and add depth to a character, especially to the one that you're trying to focus the most attention on. Granted, unless your character is relaying a 'flashback' story to another then it's not always relevant in terms of dialogue, and might even just clutter up an otherwise 'perfect' post unless you're careful. What a good flashback can do, and do pretty well is reveal at least a little bit about your character's past that otherwise would remain a mystery to anyone who didn't have further insight to the character in question. If you feel the need to, you can use a flashback to make up some history for your character on the fly just to add a little pizazz to your post. You don't even have to reveal everything at once if you want certain things to remain a mystery. Those who are sticklers about having a large word-count in their posts would do well to consider the Flashback. Word-count aside, the Flashback can make your post more interesting as it gets a different view of your character and the overall story.

Now there are a few different ways you can write a flashback. Which style you choose should depend on how long you want to bring the reader into your character's past and how much key facts/events you want to reveal that shaped your character into the type of person he/she is currently along the in-character timeline.

Here are the different styles I use personally,

the One-liner~ Sum up the flashback in just one statement, or a combination of lines throughout your post.

Example-(flashback is underlined)
"Uhh... Am I doing this right, Mr. Simmons?" said Steve. Mr. Simmons looked over to Steve. What he saw was the vision of a svelte young Richard Simmons doing aerobics like his limbs didn't bend at the elbows and knees.
"Sure you are," Mr. Simmons encouraged the man. "Just try not to be so ridged."

It was short and simple. And it revealed at least enough about the character in question to bring a little insight into their past. In this case, you the reader get to see how Mr. Simmons wasn't that different than Steve back when he was younger. Sometimes a good flashback can give you a reason to have your character relate to another. So not only does the reader find more depth to your character, but they might better see the reasoning behind the way your character acts to another, or how they act in a certain situation.

Simple Dialogue~ Show the reader a conversation that your character had with another a long time ago... or not so long ago.

Kelly took out one of her pigtails in frustration and started crying. She couldn't understand how Jill could be so mad about such a small thing. Then suddenly she heard voices in her head from a time not long ago, yet so far away...

"It's nice of you to invite me," said a little girl with curls in her hair. "But I wish you invited Jill, too."
"I'm sure she'll understand, Margarette." said another little girl with pigtails.
"But Kelly. She's our friend!"

After looking into a mirror, Kelly sniffed and wiped her tears. The one pigtail looked like an eyesore, so she took the last one out too.
'Perhaps it's time to make this right,' she thought to herself.

Here you get to read into the past of Kelly and get a glimpse of a character not even involved with the current-time situation; Margarette, the little girl with curls in her hair. This is added depth to your character as you can show relationships they share with imporant and even non-important characters in their life. As you can also see, the Simple Dialogue method requires a couple things. A) You need to lead into the actual dialogue part in some way so it's not completely random. B) In some cases you may wish to have the reader come to the conclusion themselves as to who is saying what. To do this, leave out the name unless one of the characters says it in the dialogue. You can even just limit the identifiers for the characters as basic physical/mentality descriptions that highlight the key traits of your character, making them as easily identifiable as you want. (naturally you usually want the character having the flashback the most identifiable in some way in the flashback all the time) C) A lot of times, the exact place the flashback is set in can simply be implied or ignored all together based on relevance or how much you want revealed about your character to the reader.

Split Time Post~ Where you split your post and write one part (or more for you people who like to write novels on here) as role play in an earlier time period.

Blood was spilling everywhere. But as Steve was murdering Richard Simmons, he suddenly remembered that time he first started the aerobic class...

The techno music was blaring in his ears, yet he didn't stop moving.
"Uhh... Am I doing this right, Mr. Simmons?" said Steve. Mr. Simmons looked over to Steve. What he saw was the vision of a svelte young Richard Simmons doing aerobics like his limbs didn't bend at the elbows and knees.
"Sure you are," Mr. Simmons encouraged the man. "Just try not to be so ridged."


A tear rolled down Steve's cheek, and he threw the penknife to the ground in frustration.

Now here we have Steve and Mr. Simmons again and as you can see, the flashback returns your attention to something that happened before(or putting the prior example aside, you can introduce a flashback of something that the reader didn't know happened before). This example also goes along side the earlier point that you can use a flashback as a way to add depth to your character by giving reason for their actions in a situation, or show how a character can relate to another. Here, you also see that once again you need a lead-in to the flashback so the reader knows why there's something completely different happening in your post. As you can see, the difference with this style of flashback is that it doesn't simplify the descriptions and isn't shy about using the characters names outside their dialogue. You may want to use a border like "~~~" if you want. Its purpose is to simply mark where the flashback begins and ends in your post.

Do not underestimate the power of the Flashback. Like stated before, you can easily add to your word count. BUT more importantly you can add depth to your character and make the character and the post more interesting.
People talk about combining the Way of Learning with the Way of the Samurai,
but when properly combined, they aren't two-they're one.
Only one Way, Takezo.

~Takuan Sōhō, Musashi
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kaidan K
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