Back flashes don’t affect a story’s forward movement. They keep readers in the present while revealing something about a character and a past event that’s affected him or her.
A back flash provides information about a character’s past either through dialogue or the character’s thoughts. It’s the best option for writers when they want to reveal something about a character’s past. Be careful not to write long back flashes, however. Instead, include snippets of information about a character’s past as the story progresses.
Back Flash in Thoughts
When Walter saw the accident on the road up ahead, a pain stabbed his heart. As he lifted his foot off the gas pedal, he pointed at it. His friend and passenger, James, stared at the scene’s police cars and ambulance.
“Amelia,” Walter muttered.
“Amelia?” James said. “Oh, yes. I remember.”
Walter passed the accident in silence. It happened two years ago. Amelia Easterling and he were engaged, and then that horrible accident happened at the movie theater. He’d hit a large van backing out of its parking space. The crash killed her instantly. Oh, how he missed her!
He pulled into a grocery store’s parking lot. He had to get his mind on other things. “Let’s get our soda and chips fast.”
James slammed the car door behind him. “Right, Walter. I’m hungry.”
Back Flash in Dialogue
Walter nudged his friend James when they entered the grocery store. “Hey, look over yonder. That pretty lady examining the oranges.”
James halted near the cash registers. “Yeah. She looks sorta like Amelia. I’m glad you’ve recovered from that accident you had. It wasn’t your fault.”
“We were arguing at the time, James,” Walter said. “I was driving, so it was my fault. I should’ve been paying better attention to the traffic. She’d still be alive if I’d been doing that.”
James smiled at the lady as she headed for the vegetables. “Let’s go introduce ourselves.”
Walter shrugged. “Why not?”
USE FLASHBACKS CAREFFULLY, BUT HEY, DON’T FORGET THE BACK FLASH!