A story riddled with flashbacks is a sign of weakness, unless it's a device. But, I'm finding that for my MC, she's flashing back a bit to the past, a bit more than I'd like, and mayhap at too much length.

So, what am I to do with all these flashbacks?

Here's a sample, just a rough section, includes a flashback if you care to look over, feel free to advise me even if you don't--I've got like, two others much longer that are back to back, in another chapter, which I am definitely thinking of cutting or moving somehow. They are good scenes though, I know I could start with castle life instead or cut these down to something shorter, but, in some cases they highlight a character that will be important later and show background stuff that isn't standard.

  • The flashback actually didn't bother me as much as the overuse of past perfect/continuous tense in the first two sentences (the word been is used four times in one short paragraph, and the word had--seven), but--not to slip into the critique no one asked for, sorry--if you consider flashbacks a sign of weakness (which to me is a very broad generalization), unless it is a device, why not make it a device, then? Unless you agree with @MarkBaker, and you had started your story in a wrong place (which could have happened) you either have to use them to deliver your backstory, or...
    – Lew
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 14:51
  • ...weave bits of it into the narration without leaving the present, which is more difficult to make sound natural.
    – Lew
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


I haven't read your samples because we don't do critiques. But there is a general question here that may be of use to other people.

If you have too many flashbacks, it it probably a structural problem. Some of the possible causes are:

  1. You have started the story in the wrong place. An anxiety to get to the action, or to get to the scenes you are most excited to write, can lead you to skip the necessary build of your story arc. The cure here is to find the proper beginning.

  2. You have chosen the wrong narrative technique for the story you need to tell. Popular as they may be, first person narration and close third person narration are not the right choices for some stories because there is much that the reader needs to know that is not in the character's line of sight. A more classical narrative style may fix this problem.

  3. You may be trying to include information that the reader does not actually care about. It is hard to leave your research and worldbuilding on the cutting room floor, but if it is not essential to the development of the story arc, it just has to go.

  4. The narrative arc may not be well established. Without a strong narrative arc, there is no force pushing the story forward. A writer in search of their arc may find themselves doubling back in search of the end of the string. The answer in this case is simply to step back and find the arc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There could be many other reasons why you have ended up with too many flashbacks. But these are at least some things to look for.

  • Added it in case anyone wanted to get a grounding for it, but I know this is not the place for critiques. Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 5:23

One thing I learned over time is that it's okay to split the story into different pieces. As long as the flashback is not critical to the current story, it could make a good prequel story.

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