Prose: The Controversial Flashback

Why the hostility toward flashbacks? If done well, they work. But done badly, they break the reader’s experience, preventing them from discovering what happens next in the story. To quote editor, Sol Stein, “If we are enthralled, we don’t want to be interrupted.” The trick, therefore, if you feel compelled to use one, is to use the flashback in as little a disruptive way as possible. Here are a few techniques to help you do that.

Plotting: Architectural Suspense

We’ve all read that novel where at some point you put it down and forget it ever existed until you trip over it one day and then in a state of annoyance donate it to the charity shop. It failed to grip you, to compel you to go on. Often the culprit is a lack of suspense—the glue that binds the reader’s hands to the covers.

What Is Characterization?

It’s not an easy skill to come up with interesting and compelling characters. My research article exploring reasons why people stop reading a book revealed weak characterisation to be one of the biggest culprits. This article will first consider what makes a character interesting before going on to explore some tools to help you craft your own.

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