Just wrote this little aside that I liked and wanted to share. It’s from book two in the series, in rewrites as I type, and occurs almost entirely in Portia’s head. Let me know what you think?
The next morning was a Saturday, and found me on the floor of my living room with several maps of London spread in front of me. I was circling and marking areas that I still needed to explore, some in the poorer areas of the city that my grandmother had grown up in.
A knock at the door caused me to pause in my work, but not taking my eyes from the papers, I called from the floor, “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Miss. Adams,” returned the voice of Brian Dawes.
I frowned. We had not really spoken since that awkward moment at Jenkin’s and he had since began a relationship with Annie Coleson. For almost two decades in Toronto, I had been a very solitary child and then teenager, used to being on the periphery of my schoolmates lives. I observed their relationships from the outside, in an almost clinical way, watching the young women of my class grow from bratty children who made fun of me to refined ladies who disdained me. Brian Dawes was one of the first true friends I had ever had, and now, now he was spending his time with a young woman who reminded me of those downtown ladies, who had looked at me aslant under long eyelashes with whispered condescension.
Maybe that wasn’t fair. Annie had never ignored me, she in fact had extended the hand of partnership if not friendship towards me. Brian knocked again. She had extended that hand to both of us, and one of us had taken her up on it.
PS: This is one of those scenes where initially I had written: “Portia feels left out” and decided that was another example of me ‘telling’ not ‘showing’ and fixed it.
I don’t know if this is your experience as well friends, but there are times when I write a scene in my handy-dandy Moleskin and it’s… well, for lack of a better word, kind of meh.
It hits all the points it was supposed to, sure, and might even have some nice dialogue in it, but there’s nothing memorable in it. Nothing that makes you want to turn the page if you know what I mean.
I find that when I am transcribing from notebook to laptop I create much more visual and packaged scenes. The kind of scenes that not only paint a picture but frame it, hang it on the wall and get bid on in an auction.
That was what happened this morning in my first all-important scene between Portia and Dr. Olsen – my magical laptop took it to the next level, and if my readers are not asking themselves ‘Holy crap, I wonder what Portia is going to do with THAT?’ at the end of it, I’ll eat my Moleskin. Or a new moleskin (not the one I’ve written in ’cause that’s just crazy-talk).
Your flashback should follow a strong scene. (so the flashback should not be your FIRST scene, though lots of TV shows start that way, with a scene from the future that makes no sense, and then a black screen that says ’72 hours earlier’ or something like that)
Orient us at the start of the flashback in time and space (in other words, don’t just give a time reference for the flash back, also set the scene in terms of characters and where they are).
Use verb tense conventions to guide your reader in and out of the flashback (tricky, but it depends on what tense your ‘current’ timeline is written in and from what voice)
In case ‘past perfect’ is only known to you because you studied French in school, Hallie Ephron has written a useful table to use for tenses and flashbacks:
TENSE TO USE FOR FLASHBACKS
If the main story is written in…
Write the flashback in…
Past Perfect Tense
He had run
On Quora, where there is a question open on this subject, Mark Hughes (Screenwriter, Forbes Blogger) had an interesting suggestion:
In novel or other literary form, I personally believe the best flashback method is to alternate chapters/sections of the writing, so that (just for example) Chapter One is set in the present, and ends by leading us into a scene that links to the past. Then Chapter Two is all flashback, related to the concept/theme/actual events of the final scene in the previous chapter. And so on.