Writing the Flashback in Fiction

Flashbacks are tools for the fiction writer to add depth and interest to a story, as they can be a part of any piece of writing in any genre and type. Flashbacks are important for the drama in the story, because they bring the reader into the life of the characters on an emotional level and let him enter the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and expectations.

The main obligation of the flashback is to take the readers back in time when that time or place in the past matters greatly to the storyline and to the present and the future of the characters. By the same token, the flashback has to aid the reader’s grasp of the story. The reader’s grasp usually matches the writer’s understanding of his characters and their situations. If a writer has not fully fleshed out his characters in his mind, the flashbacks may run the risk of being irrelevant to the story.

Let’s say, in a very short story, a character named Mike eats a quart of ice-cream in one sitting and remembers, in flashback, his mother serving him ice-cream. Then Mike goes to his job with the CIA and discovers his best friend is a mole. After a few incidents, he proves who the mole is to his bosses. Here, the ice-cream incident and the flashback that come with it have nothing to do with the discovery of the mole, so it shouldn’t be included in Mike’s discovery-of-the-mole story, even if the writer may imagine it helps to bring out the soft side of this character.

One way to bring flashbacks to a story is to give them in total in the beginning as a prologue, an introduction, or an introductory chapter. The advantages of the total flashbacks are:

o Total flashbacks allow the telling of the story without stopping the action.

o They give the story a chronological order.

o During the storytelling, the critical backstory data serves to give depth to the story.

o Writing the total flashback is easy on the writer. After he is done with the backstory in flashback, telling the real story becomes uncomplicated.

The disadvantage of the total flashback in the beginning of a story is that it can bore the reader with the long past, instead of pulling him into the story’s action and the story’s present time.

Another way to insert flashbacks in a story is to give them in several large chunks inside the story. The film industry can use cut-aways for this; however, in writing straight fiction, large chunks work better only in slow-moving stories. If the writer is telling a fast-paced story in any genre, he needs to avoid the large chunks of flashbacks.

In addition, this type of flashback is best used by signaling its beginning and end in some way or possibly putting the flashback in italics. As to the dialogue in a large chunk of flashback, it can be summarized, if possible.

A third way of inserting the flashbacks in the story is to insert small pieces of flashback, possibly in one or two sentences wherever they are needed. The advantages of this technique are:

o The writer has flexibility in telling the story, as to how to tell it and how much he will let the reader know.

o The writer can weave in critical information and background material at any time he wishes.

o He can use it to increase suspense or to attract the reader’s curiosity

o He can create layered characters during the writing of the real story.

On the negative side, if not handled well by the writer, this technique may cause the reader to confuse the past with the present.

A few points to pay attention to while creating flashbacks are:

o The contents of the flashback should not be more exciting than the real story.

o A flashback works better if it follows a strong scene.

o The writer should orient the reader at the start of the flashback in time and space. If the transition of the flashback is not adequately written, past and present may become a jumble in the reader’s mind.

o During the revision process, it may be necessary to leave out the least important incidents in the flashbacks and trim down the existing ones.

o As to usage, the writer may want to make use of the verb tenses to signal a flashback’s beginning and ending. If the story is told in the present tense, the entire flashback can be in the past tense. If the story is told in past tense, the flashback may begin with past perfect to signal the change, then the flashback may continue with the past tense again, in order not to overuse the weighty past perfect. Then the ending of the flashback can be maneuvered into past perfect again before continuing the story with the past tense.

Some caveats concerning flashbacks are:

o The writer should not make the contents of the flashback more interesting or longer than the real story.

o The writer should not introduce the flashback as the first real scene in the story. This doesn’t always work.

o Flashbacks within flashbacks run the risk of confusing the story and the reader who is reading it, unless the writer is as highly experienced as John Updike.

o Too many and too long flashbacks tend to turn a story into an epic. If that is not the intention and there is a limit to word count, the writer must be careful with long flashbacks.

o It works better to use flashbacks sparingly and with discretion since they do tend to slow the pacing. An experienced writer will not use flashbacks past the three-quarters of the real story.

Ellery Queen Mystery – The Most Celebrated Crime-Fiction Monthly Magazine

The magazine Ellery Queen has been in publishing since 1941. The over seventy year old publication was originally launched by Lawrence E. Spivak from Mercury Press. The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, as it is called today, is a monthly magazine. The magazine gets its rather distinguished name from the two-cousin writing team of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee who penned their stories under the pseudonymous ‘Ellery Queen’. Dannay served as Editor-in-Chief from 1941 till he died in 1982; from where Eleanor Sullivan took charge till 1991. From 1991 till date, it remains under the editorship of Janet Hutchings.

The manifesto for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine as given by Dannay is, “raise the sights of mystery writers generally to a genuine literary form, encourage good writing among our colleagues by offering a practical market not otherwise available, develop new writers seeking expression in the genre.”

To stay true to his manifesto, Dannay set about finding the most intriguing stories containing elements of crime or mystery, written by both past and present famous literary figures. Around forty Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners were absorbed into the mystery magazine including: Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, and Alice Walker. Eminent names like Nancy Pickard, Harry Kemelman and Jack Finney started off their mystery writing careers in Ellery Queen.

An Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine subscription maintains its tradition of literary excellence, with its top-notch crime and detective stories continuing to intrigue today’s readers as well. This magazine has won many several awards of recognition since its beginning and is regarded as America’s oldest and most notable crime-fiction publication.

Many writers have contributed to the collection, churning successful crime stories covering a range of genres including: cozy to the hardboiled; historical to the contemporary; police procedurals; psychological suspense; P.I. stories; impossible-crime tales; locked-room; classical whodunits; and the quintessential urban noir. The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine also published novels and short stories using a fictional detective named “Ellery Queen”.

The magazine’s success was more like a roller coaster. Its popularity peaked when it started, and slowly lost its glory in between. It is now gaining readership again gradually due to its online presence. The captive audience has grown to 30,000, thanks to its endurance and the belief held by its editor Janet Hutching who is certain that Ellery Queen Mystery e-magazine is going through a rebirth; something that every evolving publication undergoes.

Most magazines have been suffering from diminished readership in the last few years. Factors such as availability of the magazine for circulation, extent of circulation, increased publishing costs, constant locomotion of customers, and many other minute details have affected the distribution of physical magazines. Publishers are now realizing the importance of digital publishing and often make the switch fully aware of the positives and negatives: seeing as the positives seem to outweigh the negatives. The reach of a digital magazine is worldwide as compared to the demographic constrictions of print. With the presence of many apps readily available online digital publishing has never been easier. With a click of a button, millions of readers have access to a magazine in different parts of the world, on any smart device through the internet. Most of the apps that host these publications are offered on mobile devices to download for free to consumers, making it the most conducive platform for publishing.

As global warming impacts us, it is but necessary to join the go-green revolution and make the switch to something greener. The switch to go digital; our small part in the struggle to reduce global warming.

Fact and Fiction: Separating Myths From Reality With Stuttering

If you or a family member stutters, then you may be quite confused as to what to do about it, what it means, or how common the problem even is. Many people hold incorrect beliefs about stuttering, and they usually serve to create a stigma about the problem.

Therefore, it’s time to learn fact from fiction, and take in some important truths about stuttering. Take a look at these common stuttering facts and misconceptions, and separate myth from reality for yourself.

Fact: Millions of People Stutter

According to The Stuttering Foundation, approximately 68 million people across the world stutter, and about 3 million Americans do. That accounts for approximately 1% of the global and U.S. population, respectively, and means there are literally millions of others like yourself.

Fact: Stuttering Runs in the Family

Many people do not realize that stuttering can actually be passed down genetically. Research shows that approximately 60% of people who stutter have a family member who stutters a well.

Fact: Stuttering Affects More Men than Women

Four times more men than women are affected by stuttering. It’s not a misconception to believe that you have seen many more males with a stuttering condition than females. Still, that does mean that there would be able 13 million women across the globe who stutter, based on the statistic cited above.

Fiction: Emotional Trauma Causes Stuttering

Emotional trauma has not been proven to cause stuttering. In fact, research shows that children and adults who stutter are no more likely to have psychological or emotional problems than those who do not stutter.

Fiction: I Should Just Wait it Out

Many parents think that if their child is stuttering, they should just wait it out, and the child will sort it out on his or her own. That’s not typically the best course of action, and stuttering problems can become more ingrained over time. After three or six months of a child stuttering, it’s likely in everyone’s best interest to get seek an evaluation from a speech and language pathologist.

Fiction: Stuttering is All the Same

There is actually a wide range of how severe a stuttering problem may be, as well as the specifics of how it affects each person’s speech. There are many different stuttering patterns and behaviors, and even from person to person, there may be inconsistency on a day-to-day level.

Hopefully you’ve been able to learn more about stuttering, some common stuttering myths, as well as important facts. If you or a loved one has been coping with stuttering, then you may want to consult with a speech and language pathologist. He or she will be able to provide you with a quality plan of action to address your concerns and begin making great strides forward.