Two Spears in Creative Writing: Foreshadowing & Flashbacking (Part 2)

Joe Baldwin, a US-based article writer pens this wonderful article on Foreshadowing and Flashbacking techniques of writing. Here’s the second part, on Flashbacking. 

Every aspiring creative writer puts a premium on significant details to better describe the persona of their protagonists, or why their antagonists played the villain. Foreshadowing and flashbacking techniques aim to fuel your reader’s interest, rendering them grounded on their sofas; hence, making your knife stabbing scene or short reminiscence of past story occurrences more impactful and mind-boggling.


joe baldwinRemember the friendship of Stu, Phil, Doug and Alan in The Hangover Trilogy and how their misadventures always seemingly got resolved by a memory recall pictured in flashbacks of the past? That is the comic effect of flashback in movies.

Flashbacking techniques, relating to writing and literature, need to be done right to be impacting. Writer’s Digest, the acclaimed top resource for writers, enumerated three tips key for writing successful flashbacks.

  1. Your flashback should follow a strong scene.
  2. Orient us at the start of the flashback in time and space.
  3. Use verb tense conventions to guide your reader in and out of the flashback.

The difference between foreshadowing and flashbacking is this: the former seeks to tell what will happen next, while the latter gives justice to what led to the character’s current state or realization.

As per Writer’s Digest, “[…] the flashback is never the first scene. It’s not even the second scene following a brief, sketchy introductory ‘scene’ […]” I highly agree with this, since flashbacks are often needed to produce dramatic effect for the story’s cerebral parts (e.g., massacre, family argument, or other personal internal crises). If you use a flashback, say, right after the introduction of the main characters where there are little to zero story progress, it would defeat your purpose of building connections since there’s really nothing to talk about yet.

Make your flashback known to your readers. You can either say it verbatim or insert context clues to hint that you transitioned from the present event, setting, and time to the past. Words such as remembered, came back, reminisced, or recalled are good considerations when hinting that the recollection of memories will commence.

Be wary of the time also by using the appropriate verb tense. To highlight that the event really happened in the past, simply shift the tense from present to past or past perfect, whenever applicable. To serve as a rightful ending to this article, here is good flashback example I personally crafted, following the above-mentioned guidelines.

It was at that time, a rainy Saturday evening on September 17, 1981, when her ire for him sparked. She came to his aid helpless, only to have the few crumbs of bread he would otherwise feed to the swine tossed towards her grimed face.

joeAbout the Author:

Joe Baldwin is a native US resident & professional Article writer for Essay Look. He studied English literature and creative writing. He has experience with online web content including blogs, web page content, news, public relations, press releases, and long form sales and industrial presentations.


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