When I first submitted Dog Show Detective to an online critique group, one of the common comments was about my long flashback. And it was true- this flashback was several pages long.
Through studies and reading, I've picked up that the story starts with the introduction of the problem, or at least the first change in the protagonist's life that leads to the story worthy conflict. But what if you love your long flashback and think it's necessary backstory defining your characters?
I trimmed my scene as much as I could, and it still felt too long. Putting it aside as 'too hard for now', I continued with the edits, until... I found another spot that would be suitable to host part of that flashback. I kept splicing it and weaving it through the novel, so ultimately each section of backstory was cut to a couple of lines.
When I read novels, especially with mystery novels, I am always in awe of the way the read weaves hints to backstory throughout the narrative, eventually revealing itself as clues to the protagonist's journey to this point. Now I wonder if it started with a big ol' info dump that gets transformed into snippets of backstory.
Writing is for writing, if a long flashback comes or a huge info dump, I'll write it that way - I can always make it look clever in the editing. To see why info dumping isn't recommended for your final draft, check out this long internal monologue of backstory:
Like to read more about how to handle back story? Here's my four favourite links on this topic:
- Dump the Information Dump by Writing.com - trends change and readers no longer have the patience to read through pages of description.
- 3 Tips for Writing Successful Flashbacks by Writers Digest - excellent advice on how to handle the flashback including time-frames.
- How to Write Backstory that doesn't put your Reader to Sleep by Story Sensei - basic rules and exercises to try.
- Mastering the Long Flashback by Anna Staniszewski - for when the story calls for an epic flashback.