Flashbacks are difficult even for the most experienced author, but sometimes they are necessary. If a scene from the past is needed to understand something happening in the story, a flashback is sometimes the best way to convey the information. Here are a few tips for doing flashbacks that work.
Use flashbacks sparingly. Flashbacks slow down the action of your story, so they shouldn’t be used often. Usually in a full length novel, you should use a maximum of four flashbacks.
Don’t use long flashbacks. If you have entire chapters of flashbacks, your reader will lose interest. In most cases, it’s better to keep flashbacks under 1,000 words.
Have a separate scene for the flashback. Unless the flashback is only a line or two, a separate scene with hashtags before and after is the best way to make it clear where the flashback begins and ends.
Use past perfect tense to begin and end a flashback. While it is not necessary to use past perfect tense for the entire flashback, using it as the beginning and ending of the flashback will help alert the reader that the events happened in the past. Using clues like “He remember that day” also helps.
Illicit emotion in the flashback. If the flashback doesn’t bring out an emotional response in the main character, there is no reason to have it. The information needed can be revealed in another way.