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Flashbacks

Heijan Xavier

nathanjessehoffman.com
Joined
Apr 17, 2016
Messages
346
Location
Raleigh
I don't like flashbacks while reading. If I love the author, I'll skim. If not I'll look at the pages and see if anything worth reading pops out at me. Usually I just full-on skip them.

It's hypocritical, of course, because I have a big flashback scene that I feel is absolutely necessary. And, of course, like the ones I don't like to read, it's a bit info-dumpy. Some info is necessary to dump sparingly, however to illuminate characters and settings.

In my case, a woman is in a coma and having lots of weird dreams that are relevant to her personality and the crucial decisions she will make when she emerges from the coma. Other characters are doing other things while she dreams.

The question:

I was thinking of having her dream scenes happen in 2 page-moments, maybe even in between chapters of the other action, rather than have whole chapters of her dreaming. Could that be a palatable way to manage this? Any other ideas?
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
2,239
Honestly, I think that most of the time its worse to spread it out. If you hate flashbacks, the fact its everywhere will annoy. Easier to skip maybe, but having to do it more will nettle more. If you like them, you might be disgruntled its all spread out.

And the more its spread out, the more likely it is that some parts of it will irrelevant. You do it in one place when the reader really wants to know? Should be good. Everywhere? Not so much.
 

Heijan Xavier

nathanjessehoffman.com
Joined
Apr 17, 2016
Messages
346
Location
Raleigh
Honestly, I think that most of the time its worse to spread it out. If you hate flashbacks, the fact its everywhere will annoy. Easier to skip maybe, but having to do it more will nettle more. If you like them, you might be disgruntled its all spread out.

And the more its spread out, the more likely it is that some parts of it will irrelevant. You do it in one place when the reader really wants to know? Should be good. Everywhere? Not so much.

Thanks. Good to consider.
 

CTRandall

I have my very own plant pot!
Supporter
Joined
Jan 4, 2018
Messages
590
Location
North-east England
Do dreams really qualify as flashbacks? You should be able to treat dreams in a significantly different way, both to make them stand out from the other parts of the narrative and to give them interest, even when they're info-dumping. You've got a whole range of options, from fantastical/symbolic dreams like the island of teeth in Life of Pi to almost real sequences. Somewhere in there, you could hopefully find an entertaining way of accomplishing what you need to do.
 

Steve Harrison

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
236
Location
Sydney, Australia
It's difficult when writing to second guess how readers will react, but if done well - like pretty much all tricky writing issues - readers won't even notice.

My recently completed crime thriller began with occasional flashbacks, which increased in frequency as the story progressed. It's a multiple POV novel, the 'chapters' are brief, usually between two and ten pages, and I cranked up the pace as the story progressed to drag readers along by the scruff of the neck.

This went down well with my trusty test readers, but it's out with three agents and I'm on tenterhooks waiting for their feedback!
 
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