Tips for writing “flashbacks”

Tip 1: make it clear the character is going back in time.

Give the character a trigger – he sees an object, smells a scent, or experiences an action.

For stories written in past tense, use past perfect tense a few times when entering the flashback. Once in, switch to past tense until near the end of the flashback, then switch to past perfect a few times. After leaving the flashback, return to past tense. (Limits cumbersome past perfect.)

For stories written in present tense, use the simple past in the flashback.

Tip 2: Write the flashback so it:

*Serves a purpose – shows what shaped characters into who they are now or shows past story world.
*Engages the reader.

*Is limited to key moments.

Tip 3: Write ending sentences that transition the reader and character from the flashback.

*Use another trigger – abrupt or easing.

*Change verb tense as mentioned above.

Tip 4: After the flashback, the reader must see the character or story world in a new light as they read forward in the present.


1.Don’t use flashbacks as a cop-out to avoid writing difficult present story.

2.Don’t include more than one or two flashbacks.

3.Let go of a merely interesting flashback from a character’s biography.

4.Use flashbacks only after the reader’s engaged in the story and knows the character (after several scenes).

5.Make sure a flashback advances the main story.

6.Make sure a flashback scene, like a main-story scene, has goals, motivations, and resolutions.

7.Give long flashbacks their own chapter or scene.

8.Hold back flashbacks until the reader must know the information – keep the suspense going.

9.Have flashbacks follow exciting scenes so the reader will want to return to the main story.


43 thoughts on “Tips for writing “flashbacks””

  1. Great tips on this rather difficult transportation into the past Amir. I have seen some film noir where the protagonist begins his story with just a few words that propel him back to the “beginning” and the entire tale is in that prospective, up to the close out. Thanks again for a most interesting and enlightening article.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. in radio productions a flashback to the good old times quite often uses the chime of a harp to accentuate the dialogue’s changing into past – often used as a cliché for comedic effect. Anybody know if there is any specific term for that?
    Thanks for liking Nat’s Cats Nuts, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello there, one of my most loyal ‘liker’ , not your royal highness but your loyal likeness
        I already thought I had overstrained your tolerance because I posted quite a few things tiday, a bit much, really, for anybody’s inbox :} – I am pretty certain, though, that won’t happen again in a hurry…


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