I am writing a romance novel and the story starts in present in a very tense environment. But after two chapters it goes into the protaganist flashback. The love story is all in the flashback. Is this an acceptable way of writing or flashbacks don't work?


  • Aren't The Notebook, Atonement, and Titanic all structured this way? (I haven't read or seen any of them.) Jun 26, 2015 at 9:55
  • In a way, yes, for The Notebook and Titanic. The romance itself is in the "flashback" since the romantic relations are over in both when the stories return to the present for reasons I won't mention.
    – ShastriH
    Jun 26, 2015 at 10:45

2 Answers 2


Present tense narrative can work powerfully with flashbacks. What I consider to be one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century is Robert Cormier's 'Heroes'. It continually swaps between the present tense narrative and flashbacks to the past. The climax of the novel is the meeting of the two. To tell his story he needed the past and he needed the present. The effect is stunning.


Writing for flashbacks is perfectly fine, as is the case in movies referenced by Lauren Ipsum's comment. Sometimes setting the scene is effective by setting a tone or expectation in the present or perhaps even just as a hook for the reader/viewer. An important point to consider might be, given the entire romance is in the past, is to make it seem as a story in and of itself, and the present, whether it comes before and after or just before the flashback, at least does not ruin, if it doesn't enhance, the flashback, as is the case with The Titanic for example, where the return to the present at the end changes the tone of that end from one of mostly sadness to a more uplifting and sentimental one.

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