There are two camps in the flashbacks debate in film and novels.
- If you can’t tell it in real time, don’t tell it!
- Flashbacks are great!
To be honest, there is a third camp – use flashbacks if you must, but sparingly.
I think it depends what you are writing about and the style of your drama. Take flashbacks in real life. They happen. Often out of the blue, or so you think. In films and novels, we can’t have things happening out of the blue. There must be a reason why they happen.
So in real life. Do flashbacks actually happen at specific points, from triggers, from our emotional state? For a reason?
I thought I had an out of the blue flash back this morning. But then, it came the day after the anniversary of mum’s funeral. I’d not been thinking about it. Not really.
So this morning…lying here, I was thinking, ‘I mustn’t let grief spoil my day.’
Isn’t that a terrible thought? That I’d push Mum out of my head so she doesn’t spoil my day?
And by spoil, I mean, stop me from doing things. Stop me from ploughing through my list of jobs for The Portico Sadie Massey Awards. Stop me writing the short Bio to go in my old Uni magazine, the Cestrian, as they’re running a piece on me. Stop me working on The Monster Belt? Stop me functioning?
Because flashbacks can stop you moving forward. So how do we remember without going back?
Is this trauma? Are flashbacks trauma? I haven’t been thinking about Mum and yet in that half-dream, half-awake state, I’ve had flashbacks. She’s in that place near death where she’s slipping away, growing distant, only she isn’t in bed, she’s lying in Dean Lane by our old garage, watching the children play.
And I want to shout, ‘Don’t go!’
And I’m scribbling this down in bed because I don’t want to forget it and I’ve put the bedroom light on because although it’s morning, it’s still dark.