Saturday, November 7, 2009
I recently read a novel by a first time author that included heavy use of flashbacks. The writer will, I hope, do well as he has a good style and invents interesting characters. However, the flashbacks ruined the book for me. The primary now-time story could not have sustained a novel.
The flashbacks covered the key events in the primary character's life over decades that explained his character and situation, starting at the age of five years or so. Important characters in the flashbacks had no connection with the now-time plot, which I found confusing.
This novel made me realise why I dislike flashbacks in stories. It takes a skillful author to handle the plot construction. David Drake pulled it off in one of his Venus stories but he is extremely gifted and experienced in matters of plot construction.
It also struck me that flashbacks are rarely necessaey. The story that prompted this article could easily have been constructed as a chronologically linear story, telling the protagonists tale from childhood to adult, as in Great Expectations for example.
Is this just me? Are there stories where multiple flashbacks are necessary to the plot? Are there stories that have been improved by flashbacks?
PS: As I mentioned Great Expectations, I thought you might like to see Cooling Churchyard where Pip met Magwitch. The photo shows the childrens' graves of Pip's brothers and sisters. Dickens based his stories on real places that caught hid imagination. many are on the North Kent Coast.