How to do flashbacks

by Marissa
(Ohio)

Question: In my book I have a character that has been through a lot before you meet her and I want to show some of the stuff she's been through and some of the people she's met through flashbacks but I'm not exactly sure how to do one.


Answer: To some extent, it depends whether you are writing in first or third person.

In first person, your main character is speaking to the reader. So she can simply tell the story of what happened to her in the past much like you would interject a story into a conversation you were having with a friend.

In third person, you may need to signal the reader that a jump in time has occurred when the flashback begins. Sometimes this is accomplished by switching to italics or starting a new chapter (in the case of longer flashbacks). It also helps to include some information to let the reader know "when" they are. Sometimes that means actually including the date. Sometimes it means giving a character's age. You have to find the right bits of info to give your reader.

If in doubt, take a look at some of your favourite books that use flashbacks. See what the author does to let you know that a flashback has begun, and when it ends.

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