Dianne O'Connell reports:
"Think about when you are suddenly pulled into a memory. Memories don’t arise out of nowhere; they need to be triggered by something in the present...Be sure there is some sort of external stimulus that pushes your character’s consciousness into the past. The fact that the flashback can be so easily triggered also lets the reader know that its content is important. It can be a great way to add depth to your novel...Just like there needs to be a reason for your character to enter a flashback, he should be pulled back to the present for a reason as well...The reader will understand why the character is jarred back into the present. This also helps reorient the reader to where you are in the story. Think of these triggers as bookends for your flashback that will make it come across as more organic...Chances are, there is only one really important point that you want to get across with your flashback, so cut it down to its key moments. If readers have to go through pages and pages of backstory, they will wonder why you didn’t just incorporate the flashback into the greater time frame of the novel...[A] reader gets to know a character much like you would get to know someone you’ve just met...Creating scenes like the protagonist’s 10th birthday can be very helpful for a writer in building a character’s biography, but you have to be ready to let these go when it comes time to assemble your story. While character is crucial in developing the story, more than anything[,] a novel is driven by plot. A flashback should always serve as a tool to advance what is happening in the present...A flashback should be used only when there is no other effective way to get an important piece of information across. If you use too many, it begins to feel like a cop-out storytelling device. Again, your readers will wonder why you didn’t just incorporate the timeline of your flashback into the greater timeline of your story, or will be confused about which timeline they should be more invested in."
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