’tis a fine tool, use it well, but sparingly


For the Nautilus is my boat in which I over the waters float. Warwick Goble, Fairies on the Seashore

4,084/60,000. No new words this morning, but many thoughts and story notes in my journal. Read another couple chapters of Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make A Scene, which is serving as a good aide for the rewrite. Read the chapter on flashbacks. The number one thing I hear about flashbacks is don’t do them, but I think a writer should use every creative tool at her disposal. Arbitrarily dismissing a tool like the flashback just because it is a flashback seems counter-productive when words are your clay and writing techniques your tools in hand. That being said, I didn’t have a good understanding of the technique until I read Rosenfeld’s chapter. Outside of a vague thought that you use it to explain the why of something in the frontstory (term borrowed from Rosenfeld; I like it.), I had no idea how to use a flashback for maximum impact in spinning the story.

Rosenfeld presents the how to use, the reasons when/why to use,  illustrates her points with examples from published novels, and discusses the fine result a writer gets when a flashback is well handled. It does wonders for the story. She also emphasized using them judiciously so the reader isn’t kicked out of the fictive dream and the pace doesn’t become the progress of a raindrop falling through eternity. All to the good for me.

I’ve got a certain scene that I think works best as a flashback–it will deepen Randall’s character and his motivation as well as have significant bearing on the frontstory. It’s written, but it’s out of place in the story right now. Once I place it where it should go, where it will have the most impact and do the most good, it’ll kick like a good flashback should. (Sorry; don’t mean to be making rhymes.)

Driving in to work yesterday morning, I was musing about anti-heroes and the moral universe–I was, really–and got an idea for an essay I’d like to write. Saturday night I’d watched Layer Cake (early Daniel Craig and a Sundance winner). The end of the film (and the alternate ending included on the dvd) set me to thinking. How come? I asked myself. Why’d the director go with the one and not the other? What did each do for the story and the main character’s actions in it? This led me thinking of other similar films. I jotted my thoughts in my journal when I got to the office ’cause I’ve a thing for anti-heroes and I don’t want this one to get away.

It’s rainy today, likely to be a wet weekend, but I’m looking forward to my writer’s meeting and lunch with Janet tomorrow. Happy writing, d:)


One thought on “’tis a fine tool, use it well, but sparingly

  1. I use flashbacks in Shadow of the Lion to convey the story of Alexander from the points of view of those who knew him because he is dying on the first page of the novel. I find the flashback a powerful tool to provide the backstory for characters and it helps give them more depth.

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