When do you Flash Back? - Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog




Baby Name Voyager graphs baby name frequency by decade.

Social Security Administration: Most popular names by year.

Name Trends: Uniquely popular names by year.

Reverse Dictionary Search: "What's that word that means....?"

Facebook Name Trees Match first names with last names.


Archives

April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I was going through a script full of flashbacks the other day. The flashbacks seemed unmotivated to me. The scenes themselves were important to the story, but I didn't know why we were flashing back at that point.

I think the best rule is: Use a flashback when the audience has just asked the question that the flashback answers. Which means, of course, that you provoke the audience to ask the question, and then you provide the flashback that answers it.

This is actually a pretty good rule for any sort of cutting away from what the hero is doing right now, whether it's to the past or the future or to another character. When I'm telling a well-crafted screen story to my stepson, I find that he often asks a question just before I come to the part that answers that question. That's good story telling. Let the audience ask the question, and then answer it for them. When the audience asks the question, they pull themselves into the story.

By contrast, just pushing information at the audience tends to push the audience out of the story.

You can, especially in TV, cut to the B-story just to trim the A story -- it's always easier to jump from one time to another time when you jump to another story in the middle. But if you can relate the B story to what's happening in the A story, that's usually stronger.

Labels:

5 Comments:

I do like flash back's a lot, but I think a lot of time in movies they get overdone. I enjoy them sporadically, but when it gets to be the entire movie, it gets a bit annoying.

By Blogger Mike, at 3:46 PM  

This post can be applied to look at which episodes of Lost were more impactful than others. Very often, the writers would not bother to motivate the flashback, instead just treating it as an independent storyline to fill time. Those episodes can be watched without the flashbacks, and nothing would be missed.

I wonder what you think of the practice of beginning a TV show at the end of the story and then cutting to '12 hours earlier.' Ron Moore has discussed that they'd do it on Battlestar when an episode just wasn't 'working' linearly, but other shows, such as The Good Guys, seem to have this—dare I say—gimmick built in at the script stage.

By Blogger Gregory, at 9:50 PM  

Maybe you should teach screenwriting at UQÀM Alex. When I went there, the only thing that was said about Flash backs was "don't use them in movies... cause it doesn't work". Well... Most of the teaching was that way to be honest...

By Blogger David, at 10:13 AM  

@David: Yes, everybody knows flashbacks don't work. That's why CASABLANCA is such a failure as a movie. Oh, and FORREST GUMP. Oh, and MEMENTO. Oh, and CITIZEN KANE. Oh, and A FEW GOOD MEN.

Why would you cripple movie storytelling by requiring only linear narrative?

@Gregory: starting at the end and going back works. It's another way to tell a story. Why the hell not? Sorkin and Whedon use it all the time, and they are among our best TV writers.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:31 AM  

Alex, how you feel about the use of the flashbacks/dreams in SIGNS? I've always liked them there and am trying to emulate it in a feature I'm writing right now. They raised questions, gave you just enough to wonder before bringing seemingly disparate threads together.

By Blogger Harlan, at 6:08 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.



This page is powered by Blogger.