I struggle with flashbacks (formally, analepsis.)

I don’t mind them in other people’s writing. Indeed, they’re a really common device.


They sort of bother me a little when I'm writing.

I think it’s because — as a writer of gritty, detailed fiction — I’m too strongly tied to the timeline of events. One consequence of this is a struggle to build tension and foreshadow. When the story unfolds in strictly linear time, surprises can get diluted because the setup makes them reasonably obvious.

Some things are more fun when explained backwards, out of strict sequence of events.

A flashback can be summarized as extreme foreshadowing. “This is horrible/great. Here’s how it happened.” Compare with the linear exposition of “It would be horrible/great if X happens. Let’s see if it does. Detail. Detail. Detail. See: it did.”

The problem is compounded by my love for cinematic establishing shots. I'm struggling with openings for the three major divisions of the story. See my post on Opening Action. I continue to waffle back and forth between a hard-core “cold” opening and a more gradual montage of establishing shots.

Especially the Main Temple where the mages train. The views of the structure are epic. But. Should they be the opening sentences?

As a technical writer, a fade-in and lengthy establishing shots are required. We can’t leap into Python programming language generator expressions without some background. For fiction, this fade-in isn’t as much fun as a cold open on a serious problem.

Rewrite and Query

I’m going to rewrite of Chapters 1 and 2 of The Forge to replace the fade-in with an initial catastrophe. After this change, I'll send out the next batch of queries.

The heart of this is swapping the existing scenes: a scene from chapter 2 followed by a scene from chapter 1. An event in “current” time of the characters can be followed by a flashback to the proper establishing shot to fill in some of blanks.

It’s difficult work because what’s already in the first two chapters is correct and complete.

It’s rewarding work because this revision could be better. I’ve used the Scrivener snapshot feature to preserve this draft of the two chapters so I can go back.

I’m also going to rewrite chapter 1 of The Sword and The Crystal. This isn’t cold enough.

The Crown, The Orb, and The Scepter has an opening that’s — intentionally — weird. It’s abrupt and cold, but doesn’t have overt violence. I’m sticking with it.