Fiction writing: Using flashbacks to enhance plot, character and theme.
Flashback is a valuable tool in fiction writing if used appropriately. First, it's important to understand the technique of flashback. In essence, flashback is the technique of interjecting a passage about a time period prior to the beginning of the story into a novel or story. The purpose of using a flashback is to give depth and to enhance what is happening in the current scene. If the content of a flashback doesn't enhance the story, leave it out. Your reader will see it as an attempt to lengthen the story. When used to add some valuable information to the story, the flashback is often very effective.
Flashbacks are usually written in the same style as the main plot, complete with dialogue, action, etc. There are certain ways flashback will enhance your plot, character and theme. They are:
1. Plot. Flashbacks enhance the plot of your story by telling the reader about a previous but related incident that will add insight to the current point in the novel and will help move the story from plot point to plot point. Flashback often increases the urgency to move forward in the plot.
2. Characters. Flashbacks enhance characters by telling of a previous incident involving the character or characters in the current scene. It gives the readers background information that helps them understand the character's actions and motivations. It also often reveals why a situation is more complicated than it appears on the surface.
3. Theme. Flashbacks enhance theme by relating the issue of the theme to a previous time, thus deepening the importance of the theme. This often reveals the reason the characters must find resolution to their conflicts. Also, the flashback often heightens the urgency of the theme.
Flashback can be a valuable tool if used correctly. One important point to ensure flashback works well in your story is to remember to return your reader to the story in the exact spot where you drew them out and into the flashback. For example, John and Mary are talking and you pull the reader into a flashback by having Mary recall in her mind a previous conversation she had with John. When the flashback is finished, you must return the reader to the story where you left off in that original scene with John and Mary.
Another important fact to remember about flashback is to use it only when necessary to enhance the plot character or theme of your story. If you overuse this technique, your writing will come off as jerky, where you are pulling your reader from the main story too often. Short flashbacks work best and can add depth to your story.