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Flash forward transitions

Crumbly Writer

I just reorganized the chapters in a story, providing a flash back, "Ten days previously," but when the story resumes, at the beginning of a new section, a reader complained about the apparent jump in time.

How does one flash forward in a story told in past tense that's set in the indeterminate future (no specific dates)? "Returning to the present"? "Back in the future?" "Shaking his head at his recollections (3 chapters worth)"?

I'll admit, I've never been a fan of flashbacks in stories, and thus have never really paid attention to the difference between good and bad techniques (they've always annoyed me when I encounter them), as such, I'm not sure how to handle the situation. Any suggestions?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
shinerdrinker

Sorry about that. That was totally my fault. When you reorganized the chapters I just read from where I was at and not from the beginning. I get the same questions from people in my story when I switch from one "timeline" to another "timeline."

After re-reading from the beginning, I totally get the story and it is a much better start than the first. It should realistically bring up the otherwise lackluster voting scores up to now. They should quickly get back to your normal levels.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the story!

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

By the way, I'm not talking about prolibsis, where someone reflects on future events, but returning to the main story timeline after a prolonged, multi-chapter flashback. The only examples I can find feature flashbacks of only a few short paragraphs, and use changes in tense (from simple past to past perfect and back again) to signal when the flashbackk is over.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@shinerdrinker

Thanks for the added background, Shinerdrinker, but it doesn't really answer the question. Assuming I need to signal that a multi-chapter flashback is over, what's the best technique to show it?

Now that I think about it, it probably doesn't impact my story, since the flash-forward chapter switches to a new scene with different characters (the President and his advisors, discussing the events which occurred in the first chapter (previouisly the prior chapter, before the reorg)). As such, there's really no setting for a 'flash forward' transition.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

The few times I've done this I've provided a link that shows it. In one story I start with a scene today, do a flashback and return the current part after the flashback catches up to it. In the text I handle it this way:

They talk as they all turn and leave the room, I can hear them walk
into another room nearby. I sit there shivering and thinking about how I got into this mess. My mind goes back to a day four months ago.


then I recount what's happened in between, and get to the present with:

I'm very slow to wake up and in extreme discomfort as my head hurts and I'm very cold. I'm sitting upright and tied to a rough wooden chair in a dank stone walled room with a very bright battery .... Oops, sorry, we've been through that. Now that we're all back where we were.

Then go on to finish the story. In that one (not at SoL yet) over half the story is in the flashback so I needed to remind the people about the closing of the circle.

In another story I handle the flashback start with a typical I remembered scene and came back to the present with a line about shaking my head to clear the memories and in a third I had time and date entries at the start of each chapter so that was clear when they were.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

In another story I handle the flashback start with a typical I remembered scene and came back to the present with a line about shaking my head to clear the memories and in a third I had time and date entries at the start of each chapter so that was clear when they were.

A date stamp would help, but now that the story is finished without any dates, it would only add additional confusion. Besides, how often do readers pay attention to dates?

I suspec that, in my case, the scene change focusing on the alien attack covers me, as it's clear the attack has already happened (the flashback describes how it came about).

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


returning to the main story timeline after a prolonged, multi-chapter flashback.


The tense is the grammar part. But you also need a transition to get you to the past and one to get you back to the present.

btw, you know you don't write the whole flashback in past perfect tense.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

The tense is the grammar part. But you also need a transition to get you to the past and one to get you back to the present.

Switch, the problem is the flashback happens between chapters. One chapter happens in the present (in the story), the next drops back 10 days. After another 2 chapters in the past, it switches back to the present (in story time), but features an entirely different cast of characters, so there's no one to show responding.

When I flash back, I start the new chapter with:

Ten days previously, a single Suburban drove down a lonely road on a new-moon night so dark it was difficult discerning anything outside the headlights' glare.


Since the past/present scenes aren't next to each other, I'm not sure adjusting the tense would add much. Either the readers get that the time has changed, or they don't.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

I guess your omniscient narrator can provide that information. The narrator is the one saying "Ten days previously."

Movies that do that flash a date and/or time on the screen before the scene starts.

Edited to add:

I don't know if "Pulp Fiction" was a novel before a movie, but it jumped all over the place.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I guess your omniscient narrator can provide that information. The narrator is the one saying "Ten days previously."

That's why, in most examples, the flashbacks are momentary, because it's first person perspective and you have to show how it affects the main character.

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