When and how to ‘flash’ Flashbacks fall into the screenwriting rule trap more often than not. To the point we’re told to avoid them at all costs. You can use flashbacks for any number of reasons but its primary purpose is to bridge time, place and action to reveal a past emotional event or physical conflict that affects the character. Flashbacks that are most effective, are just that – flashes of a scene… think ORDINARY PEOPLE where we get flashes of the boat accident. Think about it, when you have a memory, it is a snippet in your mind. Pages long scenes with a lot of dialogue are not really flashbacks, but non-linear storytelling. And there is nothing wrong with this, just realize that is the device you are using and use it consistently. When getting in and out of a flashback, consider the ‘present’ reason for the scene and if it only exists to frame the flashback. If it does, then find a better way to reveal the information or craft a better segue with the scenes before and after. I’ve had quite a few scripts come across my desk where the very first scene is a flash forward. Don’t do that. How the hell can you flash forward from FADE IN? In short, there is nothing wrong with flashbacks when used in the right way for the right reasons. Many times, a writer throws a flashback into the screenplay because he or she doesn't know how to move the story forward any other way. Sometimes, the screenwriter decides to show something about the main character that could be better stated in dialogue, and, in that case, the flashback only draws attention to itself and becomes intrusive. Happy Humpday.