V.R.Stone's picture
V.R.Stone from London is reading Savages by Don Winslow July 21, 2016 - 4:00am

My novel is a thriller and doesn't have chapters, just days (written like this: Thursday 16th August 2013). There are line breaks between different scenes on the same day. But I also have flashbacks. Right now, I might start a day, then have a flashback, then have another scene on that same day.

It seems like I have 2 options:

1) Don't date the flashback, just write it in the dreaded italics.

2) Date everything. But in some places I start the 'chapter' on a day in 2013. Then there's a flashback to 1995. Then I repeat the date in 2013, which feels a bit like having the same chapter number twice.

Any thoughts or ideas? Making flashbacks confusing is an easy way to irritate readers. But I'd also like to avoid having long passages written in italics.. (and I don't think using different fonts is a great idea for an ebook).

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel July 21, 2016 - 5:25am

On (insert date) write like you normally would, then have the narrator say, "That reminds me of..." or "I remember when...." or any number of simple transitions to a flash back.

Personally, I think just because it's dated doesn't mean the person is always in the here and now. We remember things and we write them down, and those things lead to other memories, and so on. It's expected and a normal thought process.

I wouldn't make it a thing and get overly clever with it.

HOWEVER, do keep the flashbacks to a minimum, only used to add flavor or context. Say it, then get back to the main story as quickly as possible. One page, max two.

My two cents...

V.R.Stone's picture
V.R.Stone from London is reading Savages by Don Winslow July 21, 2016 - 6:27am

The 2013 sections are in third person present tense and from multiple points of view. Most of the flashbacks are in first person past tense and are for just one of the characters. To me, the changes from third to first person and present to past tense should be enough to signal switches to flashback, but some people have said that they were temporarily confused.

The more I think about, the more I'm convinced that I have to go with italics..

 

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel July 21, 2016 - 6:38am

If that is the case, I think the italics are a good call. Or find another way to make it perfectly clear to the reader this is a change. But if italics are the way you go, keep it short and concise. I hope this helps.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal July 21, 2016 - 9:32am

I don't know why italics are dreaded at all. They work wonderfully in an unobtrusive way.

If possible, you can also go form present tense to past tense?

And yeah, short and concise is good advice, not just because it's in itallics, but because a prolooooonged flashback is like one of those Sopranos episodes where Tony's in a dream for like, 20 minutes. Ugh.