Saturday, August 17, 2013


A flashback is used in a story to tell some backstory that happened either before the book started, or to fill in details (often from a different character’s perspective) to something that has already happened. Too much information can become an infodump, slowing down the story, bogging the reader in details that are either unnecessary, or that could be delivered much better in bite-size, digestible chunks in dialogue.
But a short flashback can be very useful in increasing tension, telling some details or an event the reader needs to know, while holding the reader back from what will happen next in the book.

Flashbacks usually begin with a line break so the reader knows the scene has changed. If they’re not too long, they can often be set in italic font, which clearly shows the reader something is different. In that case they can be written in present tense, as they happened, because the reader is well aware this section or scene is not the main story.

If they are written in normal font, flashbacks are usually written in past perfect tense to show the action is a completed event in the past.

If an author plans to include several flashbacks it’s usually a good idea to decide on the method to be used and write them all in present tense in italic font, or all in past perfect tense in normal font, for internal consistency inside the book.
Happy writing.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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