Flashbacks are an effective method to use when writing your story. Circling back to a time before the story begins, while the narrative is still moving forward in the dramatic present, helps to create a sense of reality and gives depth to how time is dealt with in a novel.

Flashbacks relieve the momentum of the dramatic present, yet they themselves are usually of a dramatic nature. You wouldn’t include an episode of your protagonist cleaning his teeth when he was ten unless you can relate it to the development of some deep psychosis (mmm...good luck with that one), but the moment he realizes his parents hate each other/he’s adopted etc., is something that can have repercussions. Flashbacks have to be used with care and earn their place in your story. They should contribute something valuable to the plot or to the readers’ understanding of the protagonist and his actions as in Catcher in the Rye where, over the course of the story, we learn the reasons for Holden’s problems. 

Some stories are told in linear fashion with events moving in one direction only, but this can feel relentless without a time shift to relieve the inexorable drive towards the climax. Used judiciously, flashbacks are an effective way to vary the pace and rhythm of events.

Writing Update.

Deadlines. There is nothing like an approaching deadline to kick start the adrenaline as anyone who has ever participated in a Nanowrimo will testify. Last week I was stuck in neutral but this week I’ve shot into fourth gear and am racing towards my deadline at top speed.

Soon my baby will be going to a beta reader. I know and have absolute trust in my beta reader but they will be the first person, other than myself, who will read my novel. Will they love my precious? Will it even make sense to them?  That ol’ devil of doubt is back on my shoulder but I ask myself, do I want this novel to be the best that it could be, and the answer is yes. So although the water looks cold, I’m going to jump in.

Today's resolution: keep my head down and work through the rest of those chapters and I might, just might, meet my deadline!

Oh, yes...and remember life outside of writing – after all I need grist for the mill!

Today’s Haiku:

champak flower scent

lingers heavy on the air -


If you enjoy reading haiku, my book Gold Dragon Haiku is available as an ebook at the Amazon Kindle Store.

The following link has interesting photos showing how various authors plotted their outlines.  

And if you feel like widening your literary horizons – you could do worse than read at least one book from this list.

Join me on my Twitter journey at:


And to all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.


  1. What wonderful advice! I'm hoping my readers get the reason for my character's dreams and it make great sense. I enjoy the feel of a book, but I will have to re-think getting a Kindle. No worries, you'll make your deadline! Thanks for the advice. The best!

  2. Yes, I tend to use flashbacks in my writing to give depth to the characters. As you say, though, I try to do it judiciously.
    Hope you make your deadline. I'm useless with deadlines!

    1. Thank you both for your positive comments - I feel so encouraged by your responses. I think that for those of us who write, it's an ongoing challenge which is yet deeply satisfying. Good writing and best wishes.

  3. Teagan, I think you hit the nail on the head about flashbacks. They can change a reader's whole perspective and give enough of a variance from the usual timeline to ensure that they're still hooked. Plus, learning more about the character's past has always been enjoyable for me. I think that it'd be especially helpful, though, if it was done in books that utilized in media res. Nice post and best of luck with your novel's beta!

  4. Teagan -- I like this statement.

    "Flashbacks relieve the momentum of the dramatic present, yet they themselves are usually of a dramatic nature."

    I've tried to use the few short stories I've written. Thanks for the food for thought!


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