What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#1
Flashbacks are incredibly controversial since people say, "Flashback are a crutch, why not just add it into the story."  And others are like, "Flashbacks are essential.  They can reveal important things about a character."

I just think of flashbacks as a tool to use and there are right and wrong ways to do one.  Like for instance a wrong way would be showing the flashback of a characters life seconds before they die.  However a great way to use a flashback is to establish motivation or give background and depth to antagonists.  

What are your opinions on the matter.

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#2
Good for giving context to a scene or character motivations. It's cool when a there's a chapter full of action then during a pivotal moment during the fight, there's a flashback where the characters are discussing their plans which reveals what their trump card is. Writing is all about using these clichés in new and interesting ways so I don't get why people would say to never include them or always add them. It all depends on what kind of feeling you want to convey through the scene.

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#5
Flashbacks are a lot like prologues in my opinion. 

There are good ones, but they are rare and many readers have been burned one time too many to trust them, so they better be really worth it. I see them as a literary device that writers love a lot more than readers do and most of its advantages lie in how blatant they allow you to exit the flow of a story to drag up information that is always better placed within a narrative, rather than ripping up a wormhole through time and space to show memories that can't possibly be this important.

If you have any conceivable way of writing your story without the flashback then leave them out. They're as subtle as a hand grenade for an alarm. 

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#9
To be honest, flashbacks are not my favorite storytelling element to use or to read. I tend to brace myself when reading a flashback. People have a lot of ideas of what they believe what makes a good flashback. A lot of the times, it's all about conveying backstory of a character. That is not the purpose of a flashback. It's a storytelling element. Not one purely for character alone and a lot of people treat it like that.

I treat character backstory like I do world building information. If it's relevant to the story being written, then it has a purpose. If it's just there because the writer believes it is interesting or should be there to explain a character, then that's going to be information more interesting to the writer than the reader. This is why it's often seen as a crutch. Writers who don't know how to convey information about a character's actions, past, or motivations in the present always reach for this rather simple solution. However, a simple solution isn't always an effective solution.

Now, a good flashback is one that is incorporated into the story. If the flashbacks are removed, then it's not the same story. Something is missing. Backstory is one of those things that you can tell or you can show where it is relevant in another way. Because sometimes when you are showing the effects of say, a character's past has more impact than showing it directly. Seeing it doesn't add to the story because you are moving backwards. Stories move forward, unless the story is a non-linear experience. Then the flashback can become a tool in telling the full story. Not just character backstory.

So basically, what people mess up on a lot of time, the think a flashback serves the character. What makes a good flashback, is that is serves the story. You have to set-up for a good flashback. It's not something you do because you watched an anime and added on in and thought it was cool. You wanted to mimic something you saw. However, storytelling elements are that shallow. Somethings need a little bit of thought put into. Flashback are one of them.

Yes you can mimic something you read or saw. However, at the point you think that's a good idea or that is a cool idea, you next thought should be, why. Why does this work? How does this work? Can I make this work?





Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#10
We are writing a story about dealing with PTSD. That means flashbacks.
For Flashbacks, we use this sort of formatting.

---
Very short flashback.
---

We scatter flashbacks throughout the story when it's needed. They are meant to be as intrusive as they can be, while also being very quick. A couple of sentences max, so we put it in the middle of the page and cut it from the rest of the text with ---

We also use intrusive thoughts a lot.

+++
Which we use these for.
+++


We don't care if people like or don't like flashbacks. They're required for our story and there isn't a single way to properly write it without them. 

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#11
Flashbacks are a tool. There are ways to use them and ways to abuse them.

I read a web novel that kind of revolved around a mysterious tragedy that happened in the MC's past, so the flashback that revealed what the tragedy was and what the MC's life was like right before it was really interesting.

I also read a traditionally published book where the author decided to frontload it with a flashback about the villain's former lackey. Its purpose seemed to be to showcase the manipulative evil of the villain, but considering this book was toward the end of its series, it was kind of redundant, didn't really do a good job in what it set out to do, and took away time from seeing what the main characters were up to. 

As for my own writing, the flashbacks I have written are optional, and I'm trying to figure out a way to include them while letting the reader know, "Hey, you can skip this." I wonder if I should put them in a novel of their own...

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#13
As a reader, flashbacks usually add the character. You get to understand why the character is doing what they're doing and their drive. Like in onepiece you get flashback on how important Ace is as a brother. Or if we're using novel as an example... in Way of Kings seeing Kaladin's past story (though I guess it's not exactly flashback?) is interesting because you get to see this character called Kaladin.

As a writer, flashback usually changes the order of things. Like... I could just write chronologically, but they're not always the best and most interesting order. Personally, I think that if it could be done, it's best to just explain story chronologically without flashback. But if it's not interesting enough, use flashback. Also, if perhaps at some point in time the character hasn't been conveyed properly, adding flashback is nice.

Flashback is a tool, and it's a good one to convey about the character. I'm experimenting in telling a character's past without flashback (such as implying past behavior, history, visions, etc.), but it's just not as effective as flashback imo.

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#15

Jonsoon Wrote: I might just be weird, but flashbacks that show a character's backstory tend to be my favourite parts of those stories. E.G. Kenny's, Shadis', and Zeke's backstories in Attack on Titan if you've watched that show, are some of my favourite episodes.

Imagine some idiot trying to tell attack on titan's plot "chronologically" and starting from the very beginning when Ymir encountered the source of all life, then moving straight to kid grisha, spoiling the entire story in first chapters 

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#16
Flash backs are not that different from prologues. I tend to want to skip past them once I see them included, mostly because authors tend to use them wrong in a few ways.

Ways authors misuse them:

1. Written too long (sometimes spanning over 2 chapters) only to rehash information that has already been told to the reader, and fail at adding anything new to the characters, plot, or world building.
2. Too many flashbacks. I feel like flashbacks lose effectiveness if 20% or more of a story consists of nothing but flashbacks. It's like reading a story with only fight scenes with nothing else to spice it up. It gets boring fast.
3. Authors forget to give a way for the reader to tell when a flash back has started. The best way I've seen this is to just have the flashback written entirely in italics, or if the flashback starts with a date, or something like "So and so years ago...". I've seen a lot of promising stories that fall flat because they try to include a flash back in the first 10 chapters, but fail to make it clear to the reader that they've transitioned to reading a flashback. The reader ends up confused and just stops reading. If you have to tell your readers in the comments or in an author note that the chapter you've just uploaded is a flashback, you probably need a better way to transition the story into it.

The best use of flashbacks I've seen are when an author slowly hints at an event or a character's past without directly revealing anything, builds up the suspense to keep the reader curious, and then BAM, hits them with the flashback when it's time to reveal that important bit of info in full detail later on in the story. Usually happens when the reader has had enough time to get attached to the characters.

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#17

Sake Wrote:
Jonsoon Wrote: I might just be weird, but flashbacks that show a character's backstory tend to be my favourite parts of those stories. E.G. Kenny's, Shadis', and Zeke's backstories in Attack on Titan if you've watched that show, are some of my favourite episodes.

Imagine some idiot trying to tell attack on titan's plot "chronologically" and starting from the very beginning when Ymir encountered the source of all life, then moving straight to kid grisha, spoiling the entire story in first chapters
Lmaooo that'd be so bad. Now that I think about it AOT barely cares about chronology at all. Especially after the timeskip, most of the story is just a bunch of flashbacks. 

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#18

Jonsoon Wrote:
Sake Wrote:
Jonsoon Wrote: I might just be weird, but flashbacks that show a character's backstory tend to be my favourite parts of those stories. E.G. Kenny's, Shadis', and Zeke's backstories in Attack on Titan if you've watched that show, are some of my favourite episodes.

Imagine some idiot trying to tell attack on titan's plot "chronologically" and starting from the very beginning when Ymir encountered the source of all life, then moving straight to kid grisha, spoiling the entire story in first chapters
Lmaooo that'd be so bad. Now that I think about it AOT barely cares about chronology at all. Especially after the timeskip, most of the story is just a bunch of flashbacks.
technically the entirety of the aot world is basically just one big flash back and time skip to Eren.  

Re: What is the y'all's opinions of flashbacks.

#20
It is said that every chapter, every scene has to do two things: reveal new information and move your story forward.

Now it is possible for every scene to do both of those things. Only exception is when you write a flashback because they cannot by definition move the plot forward. They can only reveal information. Compared to every other well written scene they are only half as effective. 

And they are not necessary. Include them if you must, there's no stopping you either way, but I'm so very tired of hearing the argument that they are necessary and that there's no way around them. I've read many books that revealed a lot of backstory without ever committing to a timeskip. Conversations can reveal it. Scenes in the present can show the consequences of what happened. There are numerous options. 

Flashbacks are for writers first and foremost. Readers secondary. Plot is a distant tertiary concern that's mostly fallen by the wayside by the time a flashback has shouldered its way into the narrative.