Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Writing Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan here . . . to give writers an analogy for  “flashbacks” and how to show them with ease. This blog post is inspired by a lovely author from my “For Theme’s Sake” class who has a remarkable story.

First, the definition of “flashback” for story-tellers:

  • interruption of chronological sequence by interjection of events of earlier occurrence

Even though a golden rule  in story-telling is to avoid using flashbacks, sometimes the majority of the story is presented through one flowing flashback.

Here’s the analogy:

I’m composing a letter to a dear friend  who has asked me: “Tell me what all has happened to you since I last saw you seven years ago?”

I think back to seven years ago. My letter = one big flashback. To create story-flow, I shall tell my friend what has been happening in chronological order.

Perhaps I have been battling illness the past seven years, seeking various modalities for relief, and building new relationships. I’ll tell her about major events (plot points) from 2009, then 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014. I shall end the letter with what’s happening this year 2015.

[ As Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson reminds us . . . "Without cause and effect there is no plot. Without cause and effect, events are simply episodic happenings."]

In my letter, I would be summarizing my journey  chronologically. To tell the story out of chronology would definitely confuse my friend.  I could skip over years if there were no major plot points, however, still keeping chronology – for example: I could write (relating to 2010, 2011, 2012) “For the next 3 years I kept my routine.”

In writing a book, I would be writing “scenes” chronologically, using summary to skip over time. Summary is not a substitute for a scene.

If I tell/show my flashbacks out of sequence . . . I would be “interrupting” myself and confusing the reader which would result in losing reader’s attention.

Here’s an aid to show flashbacks in sequence and with ease . . . print a calendar or calendars that correspond to the timeline of your story. In my above analogy of writing a letter to tell my friend what happened to me . . .  if my illness began in March 2009, I would begin with March 2009 and tell my adventure in chronology (not jumping back and forth in time).

 

If I were talking to my friend in person . . . and if I start to get mixed up regarding sequence of events . . . my friend would be able to say to me: “I’m confused.”  In writing a book, if I tell events out of sequence, the reader would not have the benefit of asking me for clarification; most likely the confused reader would put down my book.

The other major reason for showing flashbacks in sequence is to show character growth and consequences. In my above analogy . . . my reaction, decisions, action in March influence my reaction, decision, action in April . . . a calendar moves forward, not back and forth.

If my story timeline is one week . . . my reaction, decisions, action on Monday influence my reaction, decision, action on Tuesday  . . . calendar moves forward, not back and forth.

Two movies where the majority of the story is shown in one flowing flashback are Kitty Foyle (Ginger Rogers portrays protagonist) and Flawless (Demi Moore portrays protagonist) – in both stories, the beginning scene and the last scene are shown in current time; the body of the story (what happened?) is shown in one continuous flashback.

Happy Writing and Rewriting!

Sincerely,

Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan

 

Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan  teaches writers how to transform their email signature-blocks, photos, videos, social media, website/blog descriptions into platform statements . . . to attract target audience/readers/fans . . . before and after publication.  http://WritingCoachTeresa.com and  https://www.youtube.com/user/teresaleyung

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She is the creator of:

  • classes, including:
    • *For Theme’s Sake: Edit Your Own Manuscript Before Pitching to Agents or Self-Publishing
    • *Heroes, Tricksters, and Villains – What Do These Archetypes Want in Your Story World?
  • *
  • Immigrant Experience Writing Contest
  • *
  • interactive presentations, including:
    • *Help Your Fans Find YOU
    • *Build & Retrofit Your Writer’s Platform

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the author of:

  • Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW (workbook);
  • *
  • Love Made of Heart: a Daughter, a Mother, a Journey Through Mental Illness (novel used in college classes and archived at the San Francisco History Center);
  • *
  • “Talking to My Dead Mom Monologues” (the first monologue received an award from Redwood 10-Minute Play Contest and was staged at the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa, CA);
  • *
  • her blog (which attracts tens of thousands of writers) at http://WritingCoachTeresa.com helps writers build their platforms before and after publication

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and a proud member of:

  • California Writers Club (3 branches! And a past president of the San Francisco Peninsula Branch); and a recipient of the Jack London Award for outstanding service to California Writers Club;
  • *
  • Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco Chapter (a past board member).

 

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I’m speaking as an editor/manuscript consultant. Whether you are writing fiction or narrative non-fiction, employing dialogue that not only represents each character’s personality but also gives clues  in an entertaining way will move your story forward.

How important is dialogue in a memoir or novel? Re-read your favorite story and study the author’s techniques.

When I’m not editing for my wonderful clients, I study dialogue in movies.
Since a script usually doesn’t offer narrative or internal monologue to supplement “words” the way a book does, dialogue (and how the lines are delivered) is an essential component in story-telling.  I love smart dialogue.

In the movie Woman Chases Man (1937), protagonist Virginia Travis, a starving architect (Miriam Hopkins) sees three portraits in the living room of B.J. Nolan (Charles Winninger).

Virginia:  (She sees a portrait of a little boy holding  Pilgram’s Progress)  “Who’s that?”

BJ:  “My son Kenneth.”

Virginia:  (She’s looking at the second portrait–a teenage boy holding the same book) “ Another son?”

BJ:  “Same one. Age sixteen.”

Virginia:  “Must be a slow reader.”

Virginia:   (She looks at third portrait–a young man in his cap and gown, holding diploma)  “I see he finished the book.”

BJ:  “Yeah, he has the checkbook now.”

Virginia:  “I had a checkbook once.”

The story is launched, with B. J. and Virginia scheming to get  Kenneth (Joel McCrae) to sign a check.  By the way, young Broderick Crawford’s portrayal of Hunk (friend of Virginia, disguising as B.J.’s butler) is hilarious.

Screen play by Joseph Anthony, Mannie Seff and David Hertz

Original story by Lynn Root and Frank Fenton

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In Cold Comfort Farm (1995) screenplay by Malcolm Bradbury, from the novel by Stella Gibbons (1930s), protagonist Flora Poste (recently orphaned) moves to the country to live with her relatives so that she can live on her modest 100 pounds a year and be a novelist.  Flora’s relations are odd in deed.  The mysterious matriarch, Flora’s Great Aunt Ada, doesn’t leave her room because she suffers from a terrifying memory of an event. As a girl, Ada had seen “something nasty in the wood shed” and now decades later she still has recurring nightmares.  Flora is the first person to ask Aunt Ada questions, which serves as the turning point in the story.  As it turns out, Aunt Ada doesn’t remember what she saw. But she won’t let go of her suffering (or let her family leave the farm either).

Toward the end of the story when a movie Czar Mr. Neck comes to the farm to take her grandson Seth to Hollywood . . . Great Aunt Ada comes running out of the house . . .
Great Aunt Ada : “I saw something nasty in the wood shed.”

Mr. Neck:  “Sure you did, but did they see you Baby?”

Coach Teresa here.  I emailed my friend Margaret Davis (author of Straight Down the Middle) to ask her if she has seen the movie and Margaret replied:
“My mother had a selection of novels in our house when I was growing up.  I was an avid reader, and I read, and reread, many of them over and over.  I knew Cold Comfort Farm by heart!  I also enjoyed Stella Gibbons’s book Nightingale Wood (also knew it by heart as a child!), and I know my own writing is definitely influenced by her.”

Happy New Year & New Writing Energy to Everyone!

Remember to employ dialogue that not only represents each character’s personality but also gives clues  in an entertaining way to move your story forward.

Sincerely,

Teresa LeYung Ryan

Manuscript Consultant / Writing Career Coach / Author / Publisher

http://WritingCoachTeresa.com

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