Recently I posted a piece of writing online (an action scene containing a lengthy flashback to an event occurring in the protagonist’s childhood) and asked for some reader feedback about flashbacks in fiction writing. Readers were split in their opinions about flashbacks: some loved them and some hated them.
As a psychologist, I adore flashbacks. I believe that our pasts have immense influence on our present experiences and world views, and catching a glimpse of that past can be enlightening for the reader. However, other authors totally avoid flashbacks in their writing. I recall when author Jennifer Crusie shared her negative opinion in a writer’s workshop I attended.
“What do you think of flashbacks?” one scruffy, young male author had asked.
Jennifer Crusie wrinkled her nose in distaste. “I think they’re a sign of a lazy writer. If you can’t figure out a way to explain plot and character in the present, you probably shouldn’t be doing this.”
I felt dismayed by her answer, thinking about the nine-hundred and thirty-three flashbacks in my recently completed novel.
Another author, this one a large-and-in-charge woman in her fifties, butted in. “But don’t flashbacks give insight into the character, if they’re well done?”
“Flashbacks totally interrupt the flow of the narrative,” Jennifer dismissively replied.
A sense of panic set up camp in my stomach.
And we’re back to the present. Hi, reader! *waves* I bet you didn’t expect a flashback in a blog entry, eh? I told you that I loved them!
I believe that flashbacks can have their place in an emotionally evocative story, as long as they are not too plentiful, confusing to the timeline, or disruptive to the narrative. eHow.com has some tips for managing flashbacks effectively here, for example. What do YOU think of flashbacks?
It’s time again for Meet an Author Monday! If you like, you can flash back to the past three Mondays and read the instructions for our blog hop, but it’s basically a chance to meet new authors, hopping from one blog to another.