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 June, 2002

Flashbacks and Foreshadowing

by Sandy Tritt


Flashbacks and foreshadowing are tools we have to add dimension to our writing. Flashbacks give us the ability to see into a character's past in real time.

 Foreshadowing drops hints of what may happen in the future. Are either one required in order to tell an effective story? No. However, there are times when they can add depth to our characters or suspense to our plot, and trust me, we can use whatever help we can get.

Flashbacks interrupt the current action of the story to show a scene from the past. As such, we must always weigh the advantages to the disadvantages. Are the benefits we receive worth leaving our characters dangling in time while we go into the past? If so, don't hesitate to use a flashback. If not, continue with your story line and find other ways, such as exposition, discussion, etc. to entwine the past with the present.

If you choose to use a flashback, you must tip the reader that you are leaving the present. This can be done with a transition statement such as, "John remembered the day his father died." Then, use past perfect ("had") two or three times to complete the clue that we are entering real time in the past. And you are in the past. Act out your scene with action and dialogue, and when you are finished, clue the reader that you are returning to the present by using past perfect once or twice, and, if necessary, another transition sentence ("But that was then and this was now, and John had to let the past stay in the past."). Here is an example:

Danny remembered more about his mother's death than he'd ever told anyone. The day she had died, she had called each of her sons to her bedside individually.

"Pour me a cup of fresh water, please," she said, her voice thick with the Polish accent that decorated her words when she was tired or sick.

Danny filled the cup, careful not to splash it on the bedside table.

"Now, hand me my lipstick."




But he didn't leave. He stood in the doorway and had watched as she had swallowed the pills, three at a time, until they were gone.

Even now, Danny felt responsible for her death. He looked at his father and swallowed hard . . .

Note that once we entered the flashback, we stopped using past perfect ("had") and just acted out the story. Otherwise, the "hads" weigh down the prose and suck the action out of the words.

Foreshadowing is even easier to use. It usually consists of only one or two sentences, and is especially effective when ending a scene or chapter. An example of foreshadowing:

Sam wished he could rid himself of the sick feeling in his gut that told him something terrible was going to happen, and happen soon.

Study what works in fiction you admire. Notice the tools the author uses to enter the past or foretell the future. Unless you are a writer, these techniques should appear invisible and smooth. But as a writer, you must learn to use these techniques to add punch to your own work. Good luck.

(c) copyright 1999 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. June be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net


Critiquing Special

  • First ten pages free, and, for a limited time, all additional pages at $2.75 per page (regular price, $3.50 per page).  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (June, 2002).
  • Critiques by Sandy Tritt
  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.
  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.
  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.
  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.
  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.
  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.
  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.
  • Answer any questions you June have via email.
  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net

(See Sandy's article above.)


Lynette's creative Writing Website

(type both lines in one)




Go Back in Time!...

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It Happened:

Comments about Being Published for the First Time

by Jim Colombo

It is very gratifying when you get published for the first time. It confirms your belief that you wrote something of merit. It is your reward for being stubborn when you received a rejection and sent a query the next day to maintain the hope that the next query will be accepted.

Imagine sending queries to agents to sell your manuscript and the thrill of signing a contract with a publisher and only a few buy the book.

Each time I walk into Barnes and Nobles I walk by the discount book section that is graveyard for dreams of published authors.

I ask myself why do so many chase a dream that few catch. Writing is a lonely, frustrating, and a challenging endeavor. It will test your belief that you can write. It will be one of the most rewarding experiences you will have when you become confirmed as a Published Author.

Enjoy the journey rather than the dream of success. It is an education about self, life, and sharing your experiences. Writing lets you jump into the tree hollow like Alice and explore new worlds. Enjoy the trip. JPC

AuthorMe Writer Surveys

by Bruce Cook, Editor

This month we launched a new service in reader feedback - an opinion survey. Those authors willing to share the cost can arrange for readers to comment on opening, language,  plot, conclusion, credibility, unity, detail, balance, and strong and weak points of their work.


When you post an AuthorMe writer survey for your manuscript, we place a link to the survey above the text. We then provide a private, password protected link enabling you see view survey results - a summary as well as  individual responses (including email addresses of respondents who are willing to enter that information.) Note: Due to high costs of this service, AuthorMe is compelled to ask that authors listing surveys make a payment of $10 to $15 dollars. To qualify for the lower price, you are asked to complete at least five surveys for other authors.


To explore our survey service, please go to...



A Comment from An Author Who used Our Survey Service


"I remain thoroughly pleased about the feedback/kudos I received from a cross section of your readers who read 'Spring Fever.'


"Surprised 'Spring Fever' had that effect on those outside of my circle of friends who tend to like everything I write, though they do give me honest feedback, etc.  Your survey gave me more insight of how others outside my circle of friends perceive my work and in what areas need improvement, all of which will help me to continue to polish my writing.  The survey:  AN INVALUABLE SERVICE and USEFUL TOOL FOR ANY WRITER!

Corey Metz


Writerly Websites...


This is Dianne Ochiltree's site for children, parents, teachers and writers for young readers. Dianne is an author of books for young readers (birth to teenage)

and she is also a children's book reviewer. She's been writing professionally for over 25 years---about 18 years in public relations/advertising/marketing and the last 7 years as a children's writer. Dianne has two books published to date, with Scholastic and with Simon & Schuster.

http://tritt.wirefire.com The Inspiration for Writers website offers help and encouragement to writers of all levels. Tips and Techniques give practical advice about frequent writing blunders. The Writer's Prayer, inspirational quotes, and essays about the writing life add insight and inspiration. The Fiction Showcase offers short stories for the reader's enjoyment. And, for those serious about improving their writing skills, manuscript critiques and coaching services are available. Visit http://tritt.wirefire.com today!






Old Manuscripts

Love Them or Leave Them

by Kathy Hartwell

Eventually, you, the writer, will become a pack rat (or perhaps you already are).  By that statement, I mean that you probably have unfinished manuscripts lying around your house or office.  For various reasons, they were never completed or published, and they ended up being stored in boxes, on shelves, or on floppy disks.  Yet, like devoted pets, you hated to get rid of them.  For example, if you have fifty manuscripts from a variety of sources and ideas, or from long, summer afternoons at the keyboard, what should you do with the hoard of papers? 

First, you can put them in order, and do your favorites first.  Do you have an essay about butterflies that supplemented a science project?  Make the most of the theme by altering it into a short story or poem.

Second, you can begin with the shorter ones.  You can choose this approach if you are short on time or are between writing projects.  In addition, you can incorporate dialogue that would provide characterization and drama to the story.

Third, what about beginning with the more developed topics?  This technique can be capitalized on if you need subsequent articles.  Moreover, you would be able to conserve your valuable time to perfecting the storyline(s).  On the other hand, you can select the best of the stories, or the one that means the most to you, and work on it alone.

If you are short on ideas for an upcoming deadline, pick one that you feel has the best publishing potential.  Also, make sure the topic is what the editor (or publisher) is looking for.

If you feel that you cannot utilize the present time in revising the manuscripts, set them aside and work on completely new subject matter.  However, I would suggest that you briefly look over them to see where past mistakes were made and if you have overcome those weaknesses.  

In addition, if you feel the manuscript is beyond repair, or if you do not write in that specific genre any longer, give the unpublished draft(s) to someone in your family.  Sometimes, they will cherish that draft more so than the publishing world.  In short, never throw any manuscript away.  Besides, who knows what fortunes could develop if your lost manuscript is found after you have become a renowned author?

Read...   Two-bit Dancing

Life's an onion. Not a new concept—Usually, what we reveal to others about ourselves adds flavor, distinction…making us appear just a bit more exciting. Assume for a moment, that someone is peeling your life apart, onion layer by onion layer. Are you still adding flavor? Distinction? Is at the heart of the onion really a heart? Is it, then, the onion crying — or the one who’s peeling…?
Angela Louie, mother of a teenager and a disabled child, is entering a fine hotel while fidgeting with the business card of an escort service — lapse of common sense? Hanson Lee Ascano is a computer genius working for a prestigious firm — he also dances in an exotic night club a few nights each week. Tom Lawson is taking on what should be a routine investigation to reunite a parent with his children — instead, it rouses monsters.

For more info, visit... http://www.twobitdancing.com/

About the Author

Evelyn Schneider was born and raised in Germany. She has written "almost anything from plant-care tags to television sitcoms." She lives in San Diego, California.
She says, Two-bit Dancing was inspired by a television talk show, and laughs. Then, serious: "The true inspiration came many years ago while visiting a police fair. I was a teenager then and should have been impressed by the latest crime-fighting technology. But what remained in my soul where the images of cubicles upon cubicles filled with photographs of children -- not victims of some far-away war but sons and daughters of modern families: burnt, starved, locked away.


Publishing New Writers,

June, 2002 (no.306)

Editor Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

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