Flashbacks

In my extensive time being a consumer of entertainment I need to get this off my chest. I hate strongly dislike flashbacks. This also includes prologues and prequels. 99% of the time these narrative devices are pointless.

Why?

They are mostly exposition dumps of important story details that often have already been explained to the audience in a better way. I find they often break the pacing of a story and go on longer than needed. It’s annoying.

However, sometimes its a bit alright. I recently watched a movie called Begin Again which used a combination of flashbacks and different perspectives. A few characters start out in a bar and the story jumps back for each character showing how they all ended up in the bar. We get to see each character’s interpretation of the events happening in the bar which was very well executed. The movie goes on to include a few other flashbacks and it all worked out quite well.

Here is my rule of thumb when to have a flashback, prologue, or prequel:

  1. Don’t.

I kid! Well, a little. Most people can’t get it right when they write flashbacks and the one’s who think they can probably can’t.

I almost feel like one of the basic advice given to new writers of show don’t tell is a bit bogus. It really should be: show what is important — tell what isn’t and chances are what you feel is important probably isn’t.