Made in America

Three Easy Tips for Writing Flashbacks

In a previous blog post, we talked about how flashbacks can give your plot a boost. But they can be tricky to write.

A flashback is a scene from the past that occurred sometime before the current action in your book. Typically, they’re included because they help illustrate why the character feels or behaves a certain way.

Because they’re not always the easiest to incorporate, we wanted to offer three tips to help you incorporate this technique into your plot.


Keep it natural – Flashbacks are commonly used in fictional writing. But, just because your story isn’t based on real-life events, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your flashback flow naturally. Think about how we experience memories in our own lives. Usually, when we recall a past event, our mind moves from the present moment and unlocks an archive where your memory was stowed away. It’s this natural flow of pulling a memory to the forefront that you should mimic when writing your flashback. Consider using an object or a familiar situation of yours to trigger a memory in your character’s mind. Perhaps it’s your favorite childhood book, or the feeling of the warm, ocean breeze that evokes a past memory. Whatever it may be, think of how you recall the memory, and translate these emotions into your book.


Have a reason – A flashback is an interruption. Though that sounds harsh, it’s the truth. So make sure that when you incorporate flashbacks into your writing, there’s a reason. If you’re going to add a flashback, make sure it’s during an exciting part of the story that’ll leave your readers craving more.


Make it clear ­– There’s nothing worse than leaving your reader confused and scratching their heads as to what they just read. Think of it this way – when incorporating a flashback into your story, try to envision your plot as a train that’s gliding along the rails. You want to fluidly move toward your goal – in this case, the flashback. What you don’t want is a sharp turn that jolts your readers and leaves them befuddled as to what just happened. Though interruptive, a flashback isn’t meant to derail your story entirely; it’s meant to be a piece to your story’s overall journey. Make sure your flashback is a cohesive part of your plot and that your reader understands that they’re moving from one scene to the next.


Keep in mind that a flashback can either be long or short. However, all in all, you’ll want to make sure that this literary technique is naturally infused into your plot and that your readers will fully understand and appreciate why you’ve taken them on a trip down memory lane.

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