Day 56 – Incorporating a character’s flashbacks into the story

Day fifty-six of my 365 Day Writing Project.

Words: 1,200

(Total words for the weekend: 1,700)

Today I worked on a chapter in which the main character remembers something from her childhood. I had originally intended for her flashback to be quick and to the point, but it got much more involved and lengthy. The story developed nicely and her memory of what happened more than fifteen years ago (from her present day) gives some good insight into her make-up as an adult.

Although it is an excellent window into the main character’s history as well as a good tie-in to what is happening to her currently and why she is handling it the way she is, this flashback does bring up a dilemma for me surrounding the timing. It wouldn’t be a creative process without a dilemma of some sort, right?

Writing a flashback into a story is, in my opinion, an effective tool to help the reader get to know a character. I have done it previously in this book, but this particular flashback makes me wonder if it should be occurring earlier in the story. The dilemma is this: Is it possible to screw up the timing of a flashback? Is it ever too late to give the reader more history about a character? My instinct with regard to the latter tells me ‘no,’ but it would be helpful to hear from other writers about their use of flashbacks because I do generally believe that timing can be crucial.

The information revealed in this particular flashback is information the reader doesn’t need to have earlier in the story, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t come earlier. Perhaps the reader will feel cheated not learning of it sooner. It’s tough to tell at this point but I am going to make note of it for later.

3 thoughts on “Day 56 – Incorporating a character’s flashbacks into the story

  1. There are two issues I’ve had with flashbacks in the past.

    1. They tend to take over the story, or go on for waaaay too long.

    2. Timing IS crucial! Sometimes, a ‘convenient’ flashback feels too cheesy to the reader. Why didn’t you just put this in the exposition? Why does this part NEED to be shown? Why is it happening right now?

    It’s a fine line to balance, but one I’m sure you’re learning how to do better than I.


    • Oh man, balancing another fine line while trying to write my first novel!? I’m pretty sure I am not learning how to do it better than you, P.S.! But I suppose the fact that I am aware of the fine line is half the battle. Right now I feel like I just need to write, and later when reading and editing, I’ll be able to better gauge how the flashbacks fit in. The tougher part is gauging how these choices may affect the reader’s experience, but that is another learned skill. Thanks for your sharing you perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

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