© Kathy Ide, 2010
In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.
It’s easy to do flashbacks badly, which is a backhanded way of saying that doing them well can be a difficult task. But scenes of past events can be used effectively if you know how to do them right.
First, you must decide if a flashback scene is vital to the story. If the same information can be presented in dialogue or woven in little bits and pieces throughout the narrative, always take that route instead. It keeps the reader in the present action, which is what you want most of the time. A flashback scene must be truly worth stopping the forward motion of the story for.
You especially want to avoid flashbacks during the first thirty to fifty pages of your book, when you’re trying to get your readers involved in the action, conflict, and suspense. Resist the urge to explain the background of your characters, thinking readers need to know all that in order to understand what’s going on. Instead, show things happening, and save the explanations for later, when you can weave them into the story in tiny bits and pieces that don’t detract from the action.
If you do decide that a flashback scene is necessary and appropriate, you’ll want to take the reader so smoothly and seamlessly from current action to memories of the past and back again that he barely even realizes what’s happened. You can do this by following certain specific steps.
Have something specific trigger the particular memory you want to show. Was your character in that same hospital waiting room when he was told his mother died? Does he find a photo album in the attic that sends him reminiscing? Here’s an example of a specific memory trigger: “Bill took a bite of his donut, and a glob of jelly fell into his lap. He tried to wipe it off his trousers with a napkin, but a small red stain remained. Bill stared at the spot, thinking how much it looked like blood. Steve’s blood.”
More on this topic next week!
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Kathy Ide has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a full range of editorial services for authors and publishers. She also speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Network (www.ChristianEditor.com). To find out more, please visit www.KathyIde.com.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
~ FLASHBACKS (part one) ~
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