Screenwriting : How important are flashbacks? by Bryan Blasingame

Bryan Blasingame

How important are flashbacks?

I am currently working on a dark comedy series, and one of my characters back story hasn't really been brought to light. I'm already in the process of the 3rd episode and want to show more about her past because it's what shaped who she is. Is it necessary to show this in small flashback throughout the rest of the season, or is it best to just mention her past through word of mouth during present time?

Stephen Floyd

Either is a valid option. Whichever you choose, avoid exposition dumps and make sure it has a purpose in the episode other than rote information. And what would happen if you never shared her background?

Dan MaxXx

It worked for LOST, Breaking Bad, and probably hundreds of great TV shows. Bob Newhart finale ended out of a flashback/dream.

Craig D Griffiths

What would work best for your style of show.

They are both tools. Tools in the right hands can make art.

Perhaps a full episode about their past. There is no wrong answer.

Kay Luke

The issue with FLASHBACKS is that they take $$$$ and that's why they're best avoided.

Think of everything involved in filming a scene that takes place even a decade ago-- it's practically a period piece.

Plus, the majority of scripts from unknown writers have flashbacks or Narrators or both, because they're easy crutches. Avoid those things and stand out from the herd.

Nobody wants to hear it, but anyone trying to break in should write economically. Easier for a newbie to sell a $5 million dollar film than a $10 million one.

Phil Clarke

How important are flashbacks? How long is a piece of string? It's all about context, how they're used. They can either be of little or great importance.

That said, I would always advise a writer to exhaust other possibilities of conveying a past story detail that's relevant to the present as it's VERY easy for a flashback to be uninspired, lazy and hackneyed.

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services

I personally am not a fan of flashbacks because they can be a crutch or come off as lazy if not done well. I think if you can make the information active and in the present of the story, then do it that way, but there's also fun ways to toy with flashbacks that probably haven't been done before and will seem more interesting than the same old stuff we've seen a million times. So I'd recommend experimenting/trying to make it new, or just finding a way to reveal that info without breaking up the pace of your story.

Gary Keyes

In my opinion, they're very tricky. If they don't truly serve -don't use it. Flashbacks are often overused by developing writers. Make sure if you use it that it really gives a punch and payoff dramatically.

Isabeau Vollhardt

you could do either, or you could combine them. in my writing i've had a character describe something that happened to them to other characters. when #TheCasebookOfElishaGrey is optioned, i would think a passage like this would be also a flashback with the character's voice over narration. It really has to be about letting the characters tell their story, and how that would translate to visual medium, in my view. Use sparingly.

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