To Flashback, or Not to Flashback — That is the Question by Rebecca Heflin

548149If you follow Kristen Lamb’s blog, you’ve probably been reading her excellent posts on flashbacks, and if you don’t follow her blog, you should definitely tap into this goldmine of all things writerly. Lamb doesn’t care for the blanket term “flashback” because that calls to mind her idea of the “training wheels flashback,” a crutch that is often used by newbie authors. But to keep things simple in this blog post, I’ll just refer to them in their generic term, flashbacks.

To a certain extent, I agree with her observations on flashbacks. But, like any writing rule, some are made to be broken, especially if the author does it well. Take Kristan Higgins (love her!). She always includes a chapter-long flashback in her books. I enjoy her flashbacks. They serve a definite purpose — to reveal whatever emotional trauma the hero and heroine has been through that makes him or her the scarred, misguided, emotionally stunted person they are today (and I mean that in the best way possible ☺). Her flashbacks reveal the depth of emotion and angst that only a “real-time” flashback can provide.

I used the flashback device in Dreams of Perfection. Because the hero and heroine are best friends, he already knows her story. It isn’t something she has to reveal to him in order for them to bond. But, the reader doesn’t know her story. Like Higgins, I thought the best way to convey her traumatic experience (the one that led to her commitment phobia and the reason she can’t have her happily-ever-after), was in the form of a flashback. It was the best device to delve into her psyche and witness the event “first hand” through her eyes. It also sheds light on her relationship with the hero.

Like many other writing rules, the “no flashback rule” can be broken, but it should be broken for a well thought-out reason, and not just used as a method of backstory dump.

So, where do you come down on this literary device? Yay or nay?

 

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About Rebecca Heflin

I've dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister snuck a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to me and told me to read it. Now I write women's fiction and contemporary romance under the name Rebecca Heflin. In case you're wondering, Rebecca Heflin is an abbreviated version of my great-great grandmother's name: Sarah Anne Rebecca Heflin Apple Smith. Whew! And you wondered why I shortened it. When not passionately pursuing my dream, I am busy with my day-job at a large state university or running the non-profit cancer organization my husband and I founded. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, Savvy Authors, and Florida Writers Association. My mountain-climbing husband and I live at sea level in sunny Florida.
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11 Responses to To Flashback, or Not to Flashback — That is the Question by Rebecca Heflin

  1. Jo Richardson says:

    I’ve used them for the same reasons Rebecca. So I’m an advocate as long as they aren’t over done or used for no good reason whatsoever. 😉

    • You’re so right. I’ve read some books where every person’s backstory is provided in the form of a flashback, which takes you out of the current story. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hi Rebecca. What a timely post. I’m just beginning to write a new book, which is a sequel. I do plan to use a flashback or two in the book to reveal some important information. I may rethink things and try to work around it. I do read Kristen Lamb’s blog. She’s great!

  3. I don’t mind flashbacks in books, as long as they are not overdone or confusing. I think they can help with the storyline.

  4. Beth Carter says:

    I have used them very sparingly and only for a page or two (like describing my wedding planner’s ex, the father of her son). It was important to know his psyche when it came to a big family surprise.

  5. Beth Carter says:

    Oh, and I met Kristen Lamb when she spoke to one of my writers’ groups. She’s great!

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