Flashback And Format
First up, many thanks to Anna who asks ‘How do I write a flashback within a flashback?’
In the first instance, I have to ask Anna … are you sure you WANT to write a flashback within a flashback??
I must confess, flashbacks within flashbacks are one of my very few pet peeves as a script reader. I don’t understand them in a story sense. If something *is* UNreal in the story (like memory, dreams, or whatever) then how can something create something **further unreal** within it?? It makes my brain explode.
The other one that irks me is when a screenplay STARTS with a flashback … what are we flashing back from??? OMG!!!
But okay, okay … let’s assume Anna has a really great story reason for writing a flashback within a flashback. As I always say, just because I have not seen it work so far in the spec pile does not mean something is impossible.
All About Flashbacks
Flashbacks are usually plot devices. This dictionary definition is pretty good … ‘noun or verb. A move to a scene in a film, novel, etc. that is set in a time earlier than the main story.’ CLICK HERE for some iconic flashbacks in classic movies.
Very often, writers don’t use flashbacks in a plotting way. Instead they will use them to reveal character. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with this per se, but it quickly becomes dull when those scenes do little to advance the plot. This is why I think these types of flashbacks are better off called ‘characterisation inserts’. CLICK HERE for some examples.
Flashbacks also mean a story may qualify as non-linear. This can become a huuuuuuge issue if the writer does not ‘re-structure their structure’ to reflect this. More links …
On Formatting Flashbacks
Formatting flashbacks is generally very simple in a spec screenplay. You just write ‘flashback’ above the scene heading, like this … The pics below are from the B2W 1 Page Format Ref Guide. You may or may not want to include captions (it’s up to you).
When you’re done, you just write the following at the very bottom in brackets …
So, just do it twice??
I guess so. Simply indicate the **original** flashback, then indicate another **within** it, wherever you want it. Boom.
Grab your FREE 1 page Format Ref guide from The B2W Resources page. Make sure you scroll down to the PDF gallery.
For more formatting advice for screenplays, check out THE B2W FORMAT ONE STOP SHOP.
Plus here’s The B2W FAQs (‘frequently asked question’) page. Worth a bookmark!