Most readers, at some point in their long line of reading history, have read a flashback or a back story scene. It’s the scene that’s not exactly moving the story forward but giving the readers a better picture of the history of the protagonist. (Or antagonist depending on whose flashback it is.)
But does flashback scenes really benefit the readers? Because with anything we write, everything boils down to the needs of the readers.
I do believe that if done correctly, each flashback scene can be beneficial but flashbacks do have their downsides.
Here is my list of the pros and cons:
1. More clarity of the protagonist’s reasons behind the choices they make.
If your character hates someone or feels strongly about something, a flashback can show the story how that came to be as opposed to just telling blandly.
2. Introduce the readers to other characters
If you create a flashback to the protagonist childhood, for example, you can have your readers meet people they would have not met otherwise because of death, separation, moving away, break up, etc.
3. More Insight into the Protagonist’s personality
This goes along with reason one but more to the character’s personality. Did something dramatic happen to them in their childhood that made them afraid of strangers or did they have a boring life that makes them bubble with excitement over the tiniest thing as an adult?
(Not all flashbacks have to go back to childhood. It can be a month ago or any other time frame.)
4. More depth to the story
Instead of your book only telling of past events through character thoughts or dialogue, flashbacks adds your own movie within.
1. It can slightly pull the reader away from the story
If the flashback is used for more of a character development purpose, your readers may not see the point of it in the overall story sense. So be careful that your flashbacks still adding to the story.
2. Too many flashbacks
Flashbacks can get addicting and you don’t want to give a flashback for every part of your character’s past that comes up in conversation. It’ll just slow your story down.
Instead, keep to few, significant flashbacks that means something to the story and is more than a “how this came to be” scene.
3. Too Random
Sometimes there isn’t a need for a flashback scene and readers don’t need to see the story of how something trivial came to be. I think it’s a time and place for everything and it kind of goes without saying that not every memory scene needs to have its own flashback.
Have this list helped you? What would you add or take away?
Thanks for reading,