I know they can be useful, but where is the line drawn? What are your thoughts on flashbacks in stories, and when should they be utilized?
... Shouldn't this be in WW?
Hm. I'm not sure.
It's already here.
It was just moved. Thanks be to you, unknown authority.
Anyway, the flashback has to be significant somehow. This is the character remembering an event that happened. Sure, a minor event (like, say, eating breakfast this morning) might provide a laugh, but it's better used to show a significant event that the audience has not seen, or maybe a less significant that may have happened a while ago.
Do: Give detailed flashbacks about important information and something worth remembering.
Example: Character with amnesia getting a flashback about their past
Don't: Make flashbacks stupidly convenient and pointless to solve problems.
Example: Suddenly, he remembered how to find the key that unlocks the door.
This probably wasn't much help
I can think of four valid uses of flashbacks: Context setting, building Suspense, Subversion, and Amplification
Context Setting: Mostly used in the early stages of the project when you want the player to face a time limited dilemma in the present, but want to give them more information before decision making (and more time to do so). Flashbacks can give that time. E.g. in real time your family asks you to move out of the house (but you have no idea why that would be a good or bad decision). Flashback to the past, and you can understand why things turned out the way they did, giving you hints on how to resolve the situation. Pulling this late into the story (a flashback only for context setting) is not encouraged, as it'd devalue whatever else you were doing with your time till then (if it was that important, why didn't you let the player experience as part of the story in the first place).
Suspense building: This is a hallmark of thrillers, where the scene opens with a problem in real time, then shifts to flashback. By keeping the problem in the present open, the player is always concerned about what's going on in real time, and that gives them motivation to keep playing. Especially useful if the origin story is particularly drole but still important for context.
Subversion: A scene which was building in a certain direction takes a new turn due to new (past) information. E.g. the PC shatters a window pane, breaking into a house. You'd expect you're playing as a robber. Then you flashback to how the PC was drunk when leaving the house and forgot to take his keys. The subversion of expectation vs revelation makes for good story beats as they force the reader to question their thoughts
Amplification: 'You killed my father, prepare to die.' is a great statement, but lacks context. Flashback to 20 years ago when the person you're now facing brutally murdered your father in cold blood over a small debt, and due to that loss your house fell apart, you couldn't find a stable job, and your life in general went to hell. The flashback amplifies the reader's motivation to make a certain decision.
Hope that gives a few pointers,
A badly done flashback can negatively affect your story. It could create confusion, lose your reader's interest, and affect the flow of your narrative. But, it's usually worth the risk; a well constructed flashback can add texture to your story. It could establish the motives of your characters, deliver information to your readers, and helps the reader connect with your character more.
However, there is a disadvantage in even the well written flashbacks. It already happened and you know the outcome. It loses the much needed suspense on your flashback especially if it's a bad memory. Let's say that your flashback is about a tragic event that involves an armed robbery. It loses all the suspense because the readers already know the outcome, you lived.
Here are a few tips to establish a well written flashback:
1.) Create a trigger or stimulus that starts your flashback
Memories don't come out of nowhere. Unless your story is surreal, it's impossible for that to happen. You have to create a trigger from something in the present to make you remember a flashback. This can make your story have more detail and proves that you pay attention to it. In fact, it can make your flashback be more memorable. Let's say that in the present, you see a knife in your kitchen. This is considered as a trigger and can bring you back to the armed robbery.
2.) Change the tenses in your story
This may be obvious to you but a flashback has happened in the past leading you to using past tense. Assuming your story is told in present tense, this is true. The only problem that arises is if your story is told in past tense. If your story is told it past tense, then at the start of the flashback, use Past Perfect tense. These are words like had done, had ate, and so on. Just do it at the start of the flashback then switch back to past tense because doing past perfect tense on the whole flashback is a little annoying especially on long flashbacks.
3.) Make it full of details but brief
Don't make your flashbacks too long but make them memorable. Don't go on about flashbacks for 20 pages as your reader may lose interest. The same thing happens if you make it too short and don't put any details at all. You have to find a balance between details and length so your reader will remember your flashback.
4.) Lastly, Use flashbacks sparingly
Don't make many flashbacks or else your reader will get confused. Only use them if the only way to give much needed information is through them. Sometimes, the reader will lose interest because it's the primary way to tell the story. They may then get confused and think which timeline is more important thus losing the meaning of a flashback. A flashback must be memorable!
Those are 4 tips and my opinion on the subject. Good luck on your storygame making Zag!
I feel like this should be commended.