John Coon Author Bio:
Messing with Time
I utilized flashbacks in my novels Pandora Reborn and Under a Fallen Sun. It is fun to use as a framing device to explore a character's motivations or recounting events that influence the direction of the plot in a profound way.
Flashbacks: Good or Bad?
Some wannabe authors and uniformed critics are quick dismiss using any flashbacks within a story. They will claim that flashbacks interrupt the flow of the narrative and take you out of the action. I don't agree with this criticism. Good authors can put flashbacks to clever use if the story calls for it.
On a fundamental level, flashbacks give your story a more authentic feel. In real life, how many of us have memories triggered by one of our five senses? Seeing a broken down car along a highway may trigger a flashback to a time you wrecked your car. Smelling a particular perfume may take you back to what fragrance your wife wore on the night you proposed to her. Incorporating flashbacks in this manner makes a POV character much more relatable and real to your audience.
I use flashbacks to unfold subplots for key characters in both Pandora Reborn and Under a Fallen Sun. I made a deliberate choice to use this element to create a sense of mystery around each character in question and lend greater dramatic weight to their actions and choices as the narrative progresses.
When Dean is introduced in Pandora Reborn, we meet him as an obsessed hermit who guards a buried chest day and night. His actions seem insane and neurotic at first glance. Through flashbacks, I give the reader context to those actions. They learn how Dean grappled with the main antagonist 55 years earlier and saw everyone he loved fall victim to that antagonist. It gives Dean's character arc much more tragic complexity once his story unfolds.
I employed the same formula with Todd in Under a Fallen Sun. Readers get introduced to him when Todd is hiding in a boarded-up house with a mysterious creature imprisoned in his basement while nursing a wounded leg that won't heal. Through Todd's interactions with the prisoner, we are taken back to events earlier in his life that color his actions in the present. We learn how Todd and his wife Caroline arrive in Travis and, eventually, her fate. It builds suspense and, ultimately, paints a vivid picture of why his actions are so cold and calculating through much of the narrative.
Flashbacks, if used in the right way, can function as pieces in a puzzle you allow your reader to put together. It's rewarding when the puzzle is complete and they see a bigger picture. Well-written flashbacks can create a lasting emotional connection with a character.
Author website and blog: http://johncoon.net
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