One of the many cool things about fiction is that it comes with a built-in time machine.
With a few well-chosen words, writers can make our readers travel backwards in time, or forward.
We can speed up time or slow it down.
We can juxtapose the experience of one generation with another, flood the page with memories, or depict the future outcomes of today’s choices.
But like all great powers, the writer’s ability to time travel must be used responsibly. A carelessly jumbled timeline is a surefire way to confuse the reader, and that is never what we want.
Today, let’s explore the use of flashbacks. This technique brings scenes from the past into the present timeline of our narrative.
When is a flashback truly necessary? What other options do we have when the past needs to come into view?
Most importantly: How do we manage these time-traveling leaps without leaving our...