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Disciplines > StorytellingStory Devices > Flashback

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Stories normally progress forward in time. The flashback interrupts this flow by temporarily jumping back to an earlier episode, telling something of the back story.

A typical use of the flashback is as a visualisation of a memory that explains the actions the person involved. Phrases such as 'That reminds me of...' and 'Do you remember when...' are followed by flashbacks to the named events. Flashbacks may be used to add detail and depth, to clarify points, or to summarize what has already been told.

The flashback may played as a normal scene or may be narrated. The narrator's voice may continue over a silent picture or may act as an introduction. The narration may be done by a character from the main story or told by an independent narrator.

Flashbacks can be over a long period, such as back to childhood, or may simply be of a time snippet within the same day.


Faced with the villain, the hero stares off into the distance and a flashback is used to show the hero as a child, watching the villain slay his family.

As the TV detective pieces together the crime, short flashback scenes are used to show what has been discovered.


Evolving from the explanatory aside, the flashback provides a means of connecting events which are separated in time, making sense of what are otherwise disjoint occurrences.

Flashbacks may be used on long-running TV series to help remind the audience of long-past events that are relevant to the current plot.

Playing in time is used in a number of ways in stories and movies. The action can jump back and forth with flashbacks and flash forwards. The story can also take a sense of history and fate with the use of prophecy.

Sometimes the whole story is a told as a flashback, perhaps narrated by an older, wiser person after some harrowing experiences.

Flashback is also called Analepsis.

A Racconto is a form of flashback that is longer and more detailed and does not leap backwards so dramatically.

See also

Back story, Flashforward


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