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frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:48 am
by jackitaylor
Hi guys! I am pretty frustrated with a flashback scene. It comes down to prologue or flashback.

I find that this scene contains some very necessary information that the reader must be able to understand fairly early in the story. Since I have a couple other small flashbacks in the first chapter, I didn't want one more. So I have been trying to work it into the second chapter. Either that or I must make it a prologue.

It is a major event in the primary characters' history and is referenced once in the first chapter and a couple more times in the early part of the second chapter. So at this point, the reader has possibly been teased too long, with not knowing exactly what is being referred to, or what happened. I don't want to frustrate the reader and drive him or her away! Without regurgitating large exerpts, i realize nobody can really give me too much help here lol.

I am very wary of making a prologue, since it is disliked by so many and skipped entirely! I could do it as a prologue, but i feel that it sets the wrong tone for the story as the opening scene and it is looking like more exposition then Id like. I suppose i could try to work on that, so it works a little better. I know as a flashback Im having trouble working it into the story without harming the flow of a scene or further confusing the reader. To sum up, the opening of the second chapter is a dream sequence that centers around this major event in the main character's history. Opening the dream sequence, then going to the flashback to explain the background, and then jumping back into the completion of the dream sequence is too confusing. As it stands now, a bit later in the morning, the main character is ruminating on the dream and goes into the flashback/memory which seemed to work well until I was reading it outloud to my husband (he is not much of a reader, but is very wonderful about sitting and listening to me read) and I believe I have pushed the reader too far, by making them wait so long, what with a reference in the first chapter and then the dream in the opening of the second chapter and then have to wait a couple more pages to get to hear the details of the flashback. At this point Im just frustrated! Perhaps there is just too much backstory and I am starting the story in the wrong place and i should go further back in time, as it were? If you managed to stay with me here, and read all this, thank you!

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:42 am
by ostarella
re: the prologue

These have been a bone of contention for a long time. My personal take - if they're done well (ie, authors take as much care with them as they do the rest of the story), anyone who automatically skips it has no one to blame but themselves if they miss important information. I never skip them. The author put it there for a reason. So...

That said, I wonder if you need to step back from the flashbacks and the dream sequence for a moment. It sounds, on the face of it, convoluted and confusing. It may be time to re-evaluate how important it really is for the reader to have this information early on, and how much of that information is really needed to understand the story itself. I have read many many books where important information is only hinted at, and rather than being frustrated, it made me continue reading, knowing that at some point, I would get that AHA! moment. Of course, the trick in that method is not to make it gimmicky or teasing, versus piquing interest.

It may be you can sprinkle the information in, a bit here, a piece there. It may be instead that you need a "big reveal", the "confession scene", along the lines where the character admits to another what has been bothering them. Yes, it would be exposition, but like the prologue, there's nothing wrong with that if you put the same care into it as you do the rest of the story. So, consider first how much of the information the reader must know. Second, at what point do they need to know all of it. Then see if you can find points in the story where "Piece A" of that information should be known, then "Piece B", etc.

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:47 am
by pls
A prologue should be as short as possible - say a page or less, and in a different POV than that of the novel. Half a page is better. Longer than a page means you're probably writing the first chapter.

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:24 am
by robjvargas



I've said before that story is Prime Minister, the President, King, Empress, Queen, Dictator, of fiction writing.

Forget for a moment whether the reader needs information. Is the story served by this moment, this flashback/prologue?

There is almost always another way to provide the reader with information. INCLUDING the idea that not knowing is part of the reader's experience. Instead of telling the reader something, if you incorporate the information into the story, then it becomes another channel through which the reader gets to become acquainted with, and gets to understand, the character in question.

Try to NOT think of your work in terms of what the reader needs. Think of it as an experience, and how you can keep the reader involved in the experience, not in the information.

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:35 am
by mike m.

it is hard to diagnose from your description

what i suggest considering is:

skip the prolog

just put it in chapter one
it = that key info and nothing else
keep it short
very short

may take a little creativity to do
and make it interesting at the same time to hook readers
and tie it smoothly to the next chapter with the dream

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 11:16 am
by jackitaylor
Thank you all for your replies! I had typed up a response to the first two replies but i guess it didn't post and i lost it :-(

You alll have given me a lot to think about. Yes, leaving some unanswered questions was what i was going for all along, i was just afraid i might be pushing the reader's patience too much. I guess i should just keep writing and see what i end up with. I think I will try out a new first chapter that will show some of the important elements of this backstory. it's not really a part of the meat of the story but a lot of it does drive the plot(s) and ramps up tension between the two characters.

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 1:11 pm
by Dreaming Imrryr

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 4:17 pm
by jackitaylor
Boring, I truly hope not and don't think so. more the opposite, thats why i didnt want to open with that scene, and set the wrong tone for the book. Not that thre isn't action in it, but it sort of gradually builds throughout the book, and its more suspense in most cases, or at least that is what I hope Im accomplishing LOL. In the scene there is an exchange of gunfire and MC fires her weapon for the first time (outside of the firing range) and kills a man, to save a friend's life.

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 4:23 pm
by jackitaylor
mike, I don't do short very well. Im not quite as bad as spending 6 paragraphs describing a chair (a poke at Ann Rice lol, i love her work, she is excellent, but very heavy on the descriptions), but I do find I have to go back later and pull a line or two of excessive description. I'm trying to stick to what is only necessary to the scene and let the reader fill in some blanks for themselves, but i keep having to keep myself in check about my dirty habit of long description.

Re: frustrated with flashback scene

PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 6:37 pm
by robjvargas
==I'm trying to stick to what is only necessary to the scene==
You might be overthinking it.

When I'm writing, I try to NOT think of scenes as scenes. Instead, I try to imagine myself in that moment. What would I take in? Would I, as an I.T. geek, even know one art school from another? Would a man notice the woman's hair in a given moment?

Remember, even if you're writing in an omniscient POV, your characters are only going to take in so much in a moment.