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What purposes does the flashback in a story serve ?

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tygasweetheart | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 12, 2013 at 6:20 AM via iOS

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What purposes does the flashback in a story serve ?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 12, 2013 at 1:22 PM (Answer #1)

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A flashback is a literary device in a story that provides some background information on events, situations, or a character's past history; author's often use flashbacks to reveal some important truth about a character's past that otherwise the reader might not have known.  Flashbacks can be useful in terms of characterization but also plot development or conflict.  For example, a flashback can reveal why some key event in the story has happened or why two characters struggle to get along with each other.  In analyzing your specific story, ask yourself:

1) Does the flashback reveal something about one of the characters?

2) Does the flashback hint at an older conflict, rivalry, or injustice that could influence the current conflict in the story?

3) Does the flashback tell the reader some key piece of information necessary to understanding the development of the plot?

4) What effect does the flashback have on the chronology that is development in the story?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 23, 2014 at 8:23 PM (Answer #2)

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When authors employ flashback as a literary device, they break with the traditional, chronological storytelling narrative. Therefore, when the flashback is included, it will likely bring information that had not been produced previously. There will be new details and facts that may help tie in the events taking place as part of the plot.

Flashbacks can be included as a break in the narrative, or blended within the story of the characters as it happens in the style known as "stream of consciousness". In this type of story, the narrator is the main character, and is in constant analysis of a situation speaking from his or her own point of view and using first person.

Flashbacks can also come as dreams and memories, thus manifesting to the main character subconsciously. Whichever way they occur, their purpose is to add information, clarify issues, and perhaps be the solution to the story's problem or main dilemma.

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