All terms

What is a Flashback?

A scene set in a time earlier than the main story.

Looking Back: A Guide to Flashbacks in Creative Writing

Flashbacks are a powerful tool writers use to give readers a glimpse into a character's past, backstory or an important event that happened prior to the main story. When used effectively, flashbacks can add depth to a character, move the story forward, and keep the reader engaged.

While flashbacks can be a great addition to any piece of writing, they must be used carefully to avoid confusing the reader. A well-executed flashback should be clear and concise, and move the story forward. It's important that it's not overused and that it's placed in the right moment to maintain the momentum of the story.

It's also important to consider the language used in flashbacks. The use of past tense is common but not always necessary. In some cases, writers may use present tense to add immediacy to the flashback or to make it feel like a live scene. It's up to the writer to decide what tense works best for the story and style of writing.

From Dickens to Hemingway: Two Examples of Flashbacks in Literature

Flashbacks are not a new technique, they have been used in literature for hundreds of years. Here are two examples of authors who utilize flashbacks in their work.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

In 'Great Expectations', the character of Pip has a number of flashbacks that help the reader understand his relationship with the character of Estella. One important flashback happens when Pip visits the decaying Satis House and remembers his visit with Estella and her adoptive mother, Miss Havisham.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

In 'The Sun Also Rises', the main character Jake Barnes has numerous flashbacks to his time as a soldier in WWI, which help the reader understand the reasons behind his detachment and emotional struggles throughout the novel.