Friday, 26 February 2010

Writing Transitions and Tie-backs: Part II

Now were going to look at tie-backs which are reverse transitions. Because you're tying back to things that have happened earlier, you need to have an idea of what will happen through the novel.

So, if you're a writer who plans an outline, you can plan your tie-backs, if not, you can always add tie-backs in revision.

Tie-Back Techniques

1) The flashback - we've all seen them done in movies where it gets blurry and immediately we're thrown back in time and everything's explained.
However, there are problems with tie-backs done this way:
a) they're cliche - writers use them too much instead of finding a creative way to explain their actions and motives
b) they stop the story to go back
c) the last problem and one of my biggest writing peeves: they lead to dream sequences!
Please, I beg you, limit your dream sequences! Please, for the love of my sanity!

2) Foreshadowing - another overused technique. In case you don't know what it means, here's a definition from Wikipedia: (notice how many times the writers uses the words 'in other words ' in his definition)

"Foreshadowing ... provide[s] clues for the reader to be able to predict what might occur later on in the story. In other words, it is a literary device in which an author drops hints about the plot and what may come in the near future or, in other words, the plot developments to come later in the story."

In other  words, it assumes the reader is too dumb to get the point so they foreshadow a big scene more than once. And when the big scene actually arrives, the reader says, 'deja vu.'

So, does this mean that you should not use foreshadowing and flashbacks? No. But, don't overuse them.
Be creative with your flashbacks and produce surprise effects with your foreshadowing. It can be done and probably you've seen them in your favorite novels.

More on this topic next week.
Source: Brainstormer Writing Series

This award was given me by Patricia Stoltley. She has a wonderful writing blog and she writes great mysteries set in Colorado. Check out her blog.

I give the award to:

1) Reaganstar at Star Shadow Creative Mishaps.
2) Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs
3) Rachel at I Picked up a Pen One Day
5) Erica at


erica m. chapman said...

Aw, thanks so much for the award. I agree with you about the dream sequences and flashbacks. I think some are okay, but limit the use ;o)

Carol Kilgore said...

Good posts. The photo in Part 1 looks like a road that goes to a place I used to live in the mountains.

Congrats on your award.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Erica, yes, I think that's the key, limit the use.

Carol, I'm not sure where it's from exactly. But, it's lovely.


JournoMich said...

Great post--I love how you concentrated on not treating the readers as dumb. I hate it when a writer gives away too much, or emphasizes too much. I won't read that author again!

Congrats to all the award recipients, and to you, Anne Elle.

Southern City Mysteries

Jemi Fraser said...

Subtlety is always the key - readers are pretty smart cookies :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ann for the award. I humbly accept. I thank my parents, Barky the dog, and that strange man on the street corner wearing a trench coat and yelling at cars passing by. I couldn't have done it without you.

Stephen Tremp

Ann Elle Altman said...

Michelle, I'm with you, I think sometimes writers can place too much information before us.

Jemi, you are exactly right.

Stephen, glad you like the award. Your blog has been so helpful to me in the last few days.


Karen Jones Gowen said...

I appreciate subtlety in a novel. It's also how I write. Your dream sequence comment made me lol, since when I first started writing stories circa age 8, they all ended with the main character waking up and finding out it was all a dream.

Anonymous said...

Subtlety is the key in foreshadowing! Flashbacks are tricky - you're right, they're too overdone.

Dream sequences!! That's the best way to open AND end a novel. Just close with this:

And then she woke up and realized there was no need to tie up any of the story threads because it was all a dream.

That's a Pulitzer!


from the desk of a writer

J.L. Campbell said...

Of course, I had to cut over to tnbw to check on a segment of my novel where one of the ms's thought about a life-changing incident. :)

Thanks for sharing this. It helps to read these craft articles as they keep up on our toes.

Thanks also for the award to journey in ink.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Karen, I didn't mean to offend anyone with my comment on dream sequences but I do find them irritating if overdone or they have no relation to the story.

Corra, lol... yeah, I should do that with my next novel. Why have I been wasting all my time plotting!?

Joy, the journey in ink blog is wonderful, they deserve it.


Tiffany Neal said...

Loved this post! It was extremely helpful. It's easy to get lazy and do things in a deja vu or dream sequence...


TirzahLaughs said...

Dream sequences are horrendous. The worst ones are the ones that don't tell you it's a dream sequence until afterwards.

I like very subtle foreshadowing. But who is subtle these days?

Ann Elle Altman said...

Tiffany, it's an easy way to get out of problems but not very creative.

Tirz, yes, it's one of my biggest pet peeves.


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