Emotional impact: flashbacks vs active events

I’m currently working on a demo for a second story to my main one.

I want the first series of scenes to have a higher emotional impact on the reader but I’m trying to figure out what would work better for accomplishing this. They also set up the story. I’m guessing reader following their mc as the mc goes through these events would be better but I wanted a second opinion. Also I like to keep the customisation choices in flow in the story but doing this threatens to decrease the emotional impact if interspersed with the starting series of events.

More than just that is there any elaborations on this subject or related tips that more experienced authors could give? Any opinions on this that experienced authors have on this?

  • Flashbacks
  • Active events

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My advice about this, is if they’re not relevant in these scenes, don’t include them yet. If even you think hair colour choices (I assume?) are breaking up the tension, the readers might also probably think it.

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See Samurai of Hyuga and Fallen Hero for games that both have really essential flackback information/backstory that still let you make limited choices about them but mostly introduce them naturally throughout the game.


So much to say about flashback. If I’m distilling: it’s less flashback or not; more how, how often, and to what end. There are purists who disagree with the use altogether. I don’t agree with them, but they’re closer to right than most. Caveat: I’m a total hypocrite.

So that I’m not just putting noise out into the universe, here’s my best insight about it: flashback is often used to give complete detail about a past event, even a narrative truth. Contrarily, stories are best (imo) when the truth about what happened is hazy, subjective, and full of holes. You leave room for readers to conspire, piecemeal, theorize, and disagree. See Rashomon.

TL;DR: My advice? Don’t tell them everything. They think that’s what they want, but they don’t. @Blazin

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I use both in my introduction. I’m not an experienced author, but I want to share my thoughts anyway. :slightly_smiling_face:

I begin my story with a short flashback, return to the present briefly, and then the rest of the chapter was MC reliving the past through a frame story (which contains most of the customization choices).

I began with the flashback because I first wanted to establish the MC’s voice (especially because I’m writing in first person and the MC was just 5 back then), and not so much the actual backstory. It’s more about the relationships with their family and what the effects the event had on the MC, than what actually happened. So when the story returns to the present, we already have a good idea about their motivation.

And yup, I agree with dwsnee above, you definitely don’t have to tell the flashback play by play (especially if it’s not something you want to remember!). I just recently realized too that my MC was actually an unreliable narrator in their flashback.

If what actually happened is more important, then it might be better for the reader to experience it with the MC, which is more engaging than a flashback. It can be emotional too, but IMO it needs a longer setup. If the event is a chapter long and not just a single scene, then the active event is definitely better.

It’s always a good idea to keep the customization choices in flow with the story, but unless it’s very important, you can afford to wait a little. Oh, and try not to lump them all together. Bonus points if the choice performs double duty. You can compare the MC’s hair with another character, but even better if it also describes their personality/relationship at the same time.

Welp, that became a lot longer than I thought. :sweat_smile: If you still can’t decide, just write and see if it works! I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve rewritten my opening scene. It’s all part of the process. Good luck with your project!

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