FurRag forums
July 20, 2017, 10:32:39 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
 
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1]
  Print  
Author Topic: Flashbacks  (Read 2176 times)
Quinn Yellowfox
Global Moderator
Hero Member
*****
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 654



View Profile
« on: January 22, 2011, 07:51:07 PM »

In an offline discussion with another writer, I was asked about flashbacks. It's a commonly used device, especially with beginning writers. I think the back-story is for the writer, not the reader. A readers natural curiosity will pick up on clues and fill in the blanks as the story progresses. A much better tool for relating back-sory is dialogue. Ever wonder why a hero usually has a side-kick? It creates natural opportunities for conversation.

I couldn't sleep last night, so I watched Robot Chicken and saw a great illustration of how flashbacks and back-story dumps effect the reader. http://www.devilducky.com/media/39099/

Mystery creates intrigue. History breaks the spell.

Readers co-create stories as they read. That's why movies made from good novels always fall short. (See Dune) Back-story dumps take power away from the reader.

We may do this because of the influence of TV and movies. In the visual arts, back-story is dumped in the interest of brevity. Visual effects make the back story an vibrant story within a story. In prose, it's a spell breaker.
Logged

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." Roald Dahl
foxsome
Newbie
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Female
Posts: 11



View Profile WWW
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2011, 08:01:26 PM »

I think like many things in the writer's toolbox, it really depends on how it's used. Flashbacks can be jarring if not used properly or too frequently, which of course is going to be exacerbated if someone is new to writing in general. The key is using them in a way that flows naturally with the story rather than just "dumping" as you put it. For example, I use flashback extensively in one of my stories, but they're revealed as a series of dreams that the main character experiences, always brief and disjointed... so it becomes a puzzle in itself to put them all together. Smiley
Logged

"Le seul vrai language au monde est un baiser." -Alfred de Musset
Quinn Yellowfox
Global Moderator
Hero Member
*****
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 654



View Profile
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2011, 09:20:58 PM »

I agree Foxsome. No tool is inherently bad unless it's misused. There are no absolute rules in writing. Perhaps I spoke too generally. The trick is to craft a flashback well enough to keep the reader engaged. When the writer becomes a narrator and starts to explain the story, it becomes intrusive. When it goes on for pages, explaining why things are "just so" it becomes a dump.

Prologues, dreams, conversations and well crafted flashbacks can reveal back-story. I like to use dialogue or characters telling myths or legends to reveal back-story.

Do you have any tips to share about how you deal with back-story? How do you keep it from being distracting? 
Logged

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." Roald Dahl
foxsome
Newbie
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Female
Posts: 11



View Profile WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2011, 09:25:59 PM »

With backstory for individual characters, it comes out best in dialogue and behavior. Dialogue is pretty obvious... as you said, you can use the banter between a main character and a sidekick to reveal a lot. Behavior is a lot more subtle but can tell a lot about a character. For instance if a character responds submissively whenever someone gets angry around them, it can reveal a history of prior abuse.

For setting and culture, behavior is key. Characters can sometimes dialogue about the world around them, but you'll find it's probably unnatural unless one character who's familiar with a culture is introducing foreigners to it. If we're all part of the same society, we rarely just spin up history and philosophy conversations as a matter-of-course. Smiley However with behavior you can tell a lot: what kind of oaths/swears do the characters make? Religious and historical figures that they invoke? Customs and taboos? There's a world of possibility there that is very natural to include in a story.
Logged

"Le seul vrai language au monde est un baiser." -Alfred de Musset
Quinn Yellowfox
Global Moderator
Hero Member
*****
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 654



View Profile
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2011, 09:34:50 PM »

Indeed. There are ton's of subtle tools. In fact, you make me think that diet, clothing, basic assumptions, social structure...really almost anything about actions reveals history without being blunt.
Logged

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men." Roald Dahl
k9k
Hero Member
*****
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 843


Dog, man's best friend....with benefits!


View Profile
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2011, 04:32:22 AM »

A good tool I have come across is the distracted student. Usually some part of history is brought up, the main character goes "What is that?" And another character chides him for not paying attention in school and explains the history.
Logged

"It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office."
H. L. Mencken
Pages: [1]
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.14 | SMF © 2006-2011, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!