A step into the past

Revealing character insights is a very complicated business.

I come to a “flashback”-style moment in my book, I don’t know if I want it. Is there a better way to integrate that information? Can I make it more seamless? Or is it fine to just have the main character narrate their reminiscing? I don’t know, because I’m too close to it, I don’t have an objective opinion when I’m so deep into editing. No one else will know the answer without reading the story, but I don’t want to give it to my betas yet. It’s not ready for that read-through.

I already know that a very clever author will provide insights like the one I am debating, in a way that doesn’t disrupt the momentum of the scene. Does this flashback take too long? Does it disrupt the flow? I can’t figure it out. It seems to sit well enough, and it’s not totally unique in its delivery.

The degree and speed of which I wish to divulge information is one of those tricky things. I don’t want to dump all the character’s knowledge and feelings at the beginning of the book; there are more natural, poignant moments to reveal certain elements. But I also don’t want to take too long to establish the early motives of these characters. I don’t want it to be one of those books that someone else reads, wondering, “Why would these people do this?”. I’ve experienced that with other people’s stories, and I know I want to avoid it in mine.

I can try re-writing, or I can carry on. This won’t be the only edit the story sees, so it isn’t completely essential to figure it out right now. But it gets me all tangled.

~A

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6 thoughts on “A step into the past

  1. Oh man, do I know what you mean. I write it to the best of my ability, but it isn’t until I send it out for feedback that I find out what works or doesn’t work. I’m lucky to have one good friend who’s super honest and will tell me when something doesn’t work.

    It’s so hard to decide when to hand out information too. I’m big on knowing the character has a past. Sometimes a character seems to only live in the moment of the story, you know? I’m not a fan of that.

    1. Sometimes what seems obvious to us, as the author, fails to make sense to other readers who don’t have the rest of the world in their heads.

      I definitely understand. These people came from somewhere. Their entire past is what makes them who they are now. That’s important.

      ~A

  2. I’m sorta doing that with my writers-blocked screenplay, interweaving flashbacks to explain the hero’s abilities as they come up, rather than boring the audience with a lengthy discussion all at once. The hook is that the hero isn’t IN the flashbacks at all; his power source is being explained to a group by the scientist who designed it. I thought that would reduce the level of “shouldn’t that person already know this?” often present in exposition.

    Also, the flashbacks are all taken from the same brief lecture, whereas the plot spans at least a week. Also also, the end of the lecture is a massive spoiler, so it doesn’t get shown until the end of the final fight.

    1. Sounds like a pretty excellent way to handle it. Showing information at the point where it’s actually relevant seems like the most reasonable way to go about that kind of thing, particularly in a screenplay (where you can’t just leaf back through the book and check details).

      ~A

  3. I am in this exact same spot right now with my revisions & edits so I know exactly what you mean! This is closely related to my other current dilemma — am I starting the story in the right place in time? Or should I move further ahead and then provide more backstory as I go? I love the way you put it: “It gets me all tangled.” Exactly.

    1. Eesh, knowing if you’re starting in a good place is definitely a challenge! I think the answer to that one lies mostly with your genre. Some stories ease you into the world and take their time to establish the action, and that’s awesome in those genres. Others, you get thrown right into the midst of something exciting happening! My series is what you’d end up calling “dark fantasy” (fantasy/horror crossover), so it can go either way. I went for right-out-the-door action. XD

      ~A

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