Writing Techniques

4 Tips on How to Transition Into a Flashback

When writing a flashback, the idea is to keep them to as few as possible and only include information that is essential to moving the plot forward. A flashback can have a big impact on forward momentum if not handled properly and can create distance between the reader and the characters. If you are using the flashback technique we have four easy tips for you to follow to make sure the transition is successful. Have you checked out our article here on the what, why and when of using flashbacks?

How Do You Transition Into a Flashback?

A flashback transition can take on several formats – it can either be a smooth transition that is eased into and out of carefully or it can be a jarring transition – one where the writer intentionally jolts the character and therefore the reader into the transition.

There are several ways to write a transition into a flashback.

i) Consider context – will it be jarring or smooth? Both types of transitions work well. People can be jolted into a flashback or they can slip into a dream-like state of flashback. Be careful with the dream-like state as you will still need to define clear boundaries of what is present day and what isn’t.

ii) Through a physical or emotional trigger – smells, sounds, senses.

iii) Stay consistent with your return to the present – if the present is fast-paced – keep it consistent with that, if on the other hand it is slow and nostalgic, keep it inline with that.

iv) Keep it short and focused – this avoids any kind of confusion. The longer and more complicated it becomes, the more it has to work to serve its purpose clearly.

Flashbacks can occur mid chapter, or sometimes, to avoid any clunkiness in the transition, they can be included at the beginning of a chapter. One of the most important points about a transition is that the ensuing passage or flashback must contrast with the preceding and following passages. This is particularly important as it clearly signals to the reader that there has been a shift in time. The transition must be purposeful and consistent both into and out of the flashback.

The Flashback Effect

Any shift in time will affect the action both before and afterwards as the reader’s perspective will be altered. The reader will potentially go back to readdress events they have already processed.

Remember when you continue to write, that you must keep the action moving forward and, that the reader will have a deeper knowledge or understanding of your main character and therefore a new perspective.

The most important thing to remember is to only use a flashback when there really is no other way to get the information across that you absolutely need the reader to know. The flashback is a very handy literary device; however, it can be a hindrance if used too often or incorrectly.

For more on this read our article on the Why, How and When of Writing Flashbacks Into Your Novel

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