Thursday, September 13, 2012


Perhaps this should be titled Flashbacks, Flashforwards, and Flashing in General? Today, good people of the blogosphere, we will be discussing memories, dreams, and thoughts. Read on and enjoy!

There are a ton of ways to do a flashback when writing a novel. But you don't want to take your reader out of the tale and inundate them with backstory. You'll find they skip over those parts; that's bad. So let's discuss ways to make your flashbacks and such important as well as give a few ideas on how to work them in.

Leading up to the flashback, there should be some reason it's about to occur. This could be the character standing immobilized with fear or could be that he/she sees something that sparks a memory. It's the words leading up to the flashback, dream, or inner-dialogue that will keep your reader engaged.

Explain, don't tell. Flashbacks, dreams, or inner-dialogue could go in italics to remind your reader that they're in the head of the character. Some people prefer to put an extra space before and after and just leave them in regular type. I, personally, prefer both reading and writing these scenes in italics. But there must be good transition in order to keep my attention.

I'll use examples from a couple of my books.

In Yassa, when young Genghis Khan has a dream, they are almost always telling the future and are usually terrifying. So, instead of writing that he fell asleep and is about to have a dream about it, I write that his head hit the pillow and he was seized by the terror of a nightmare. Then the dream sequence begins and I put it all in italics. To make it relevant, later on I tell that happenings occur just as they did in his dream. Those dreams are never boring and always leave my hero either with residual feelings or a call to action when he wakes up. This is what I call a flashforward. Unless you're writing about someone who is clairvoyant (as Genghis believed he was), this won't work.

I do the same with Markaza in Mystic.

I don't use it at all in The Abigale Chronicles series for two reasons: 1. I begin book one at the beginning of all the craziness and 2. I don't want the reader to know if Abigale is dreaming or not - the mystery is half the fun!!

Inner-dialogue also goes into italics in my books; just to let the reader know this isn't something that's being said, rather something that's being thought.

Flashbacks work the same way. If you're going to give a flashback, the reader should understand why, who it's about, and what time period it takes place in.

A good example would be if a character is remembering something traumatic from childhood. This memory could be sparked by him/her smelling a rose and having a flashback of a friend who died and had roses on their coffin that smelled the same way. This character may close their eyes and remember every detail of that funeral (including at what time it took place) but it should be no more than a few paragraphs and there should be an emotional reaction in the present that justifies the memory's significance. Perhaps the rose they smell is then ripped to shreds and the character cries for their loss while babbling about it to a stranger. It must be relevant in that it shapes an action or explains something about the character's behavior in the here and now.

Flashbacks should be short and are different from a step-back through time which can be whole chapters with no need for italics.

Inner-dialogue should be treated the same way. If the character is thinking something, don't pull the reader out of the here and now to deliver it. Work it in with the current happenings.

I hope this helps explain a few things about flashbacks, dreams, and thoughts.

Any questions? What's your take? How do you work in flashbacks, dreams, or inner-dialogue?

On a totally unrelated note, my daughter used a word incorrectly yesterday that made me correct her a couple of times. She used the word ideal instead of idea when she was talking about a thought a character in a book we were reading had. Granted she's only six, but better to squash that word butchering out of her now. It's difficult being my kid!!

Tomorrow, we discuss those pesky things known as adjectives!! To use, or not to use? Come on back to find out how to delete them with zero consequences!!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


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