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The Short Story: Flashbacks

January 3, 2019

    Use of Flashbacks:

    The use of flashbacks is to be discouraged when writing short fiction.  Nothing stops forward momentum better than a flashback.  If you use a   flashback, tell The story in the flashback itself.


    “John loved Mary smile.  It was a smile that always made him
    feel important and loved.  Even the time ten years ago when their life had
    been its blackest, her smile had made all the difference.  No matter what
    today, he would still have her smile.”


This type of flashback is fine to use because although it hints of something in the Past, the story is still anchored in the present and won’t slow your momentum down.


    “John loved the way Mary smiled.  It was a smile that always made him
    feel important and loved.  He remembered back to that night in June
    when he had first seen her smile……”


This is the type of flashback you want to avoid because you are taking the reader
back into the past where you will spend too much time telling about the first


One of the things I look for when first reading a manuscript is to see if there are any flashbacks and how long they are. 

A good rule of thumb:  if you feel a need to have a flashback in the first or second page of your story, that’s a clear sign that your story shouldn’t begin with the events being told in the flashback.  In that case, you don’t need the flashback—tell the events in the order in which they happened.



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