Flashbacks are a trope of the cinema…and generally bad writing. Let’s do flashbacks!

What people REALLY mean is that flashbacks are exposition mistaken for dramatic narrative. No matter how much emotion you put in them, they are just pushing “pause” on the main plot and giving context to the thing we’re supposed to care about. The really annoying thing, is that if you’re already breaking Realism’s convention of a uniform time and place to teleport somewhere else, why not also break OTHER established norms and expectations/laws of physics (inherently theatrical) if it helps to more powerfully and poetically EXPRESS the truth. = expressionism.


  • Start with a generic A/B scene that could really be about anything. I’ll include one below, expound on it or write your own.

  • Use flashbacks as a tool of expressionism to fill in the blanks. Provide context that make the lines land with brutal specificity.

  • Start with an image in each flashback. Don’t worry about staging practicalities right now. Clothing can come on and off and on in a flash.

  • Add your own dialogue in the flashbacks. Or don’t. Don’t tell me what to do. I didn’t.

  • Play with time (speed up, slow down, reverse)

  • Play with scale (put the audience in-between the lips of a single kiss - or racist epithet)

  • Make the invisible… visible. (SHOW us sound- a heart beat- a clock tick- a train passing by)

  • Stay efficient and theatrical. Say 1000 words with an image rather than speak 100.

Generic scene:

A: Hi

B: Hey

A: Hay’s for horses

B: What?

A: Sorry

B: That’s what I thought

A: What? I was being funny. I’m a funny pony.

B: Is this going how you wanted it to go?

A: It’s not going much of anywhere it seems

B: Sorry

A: You’re not though

B: I guess I’m not. Are you?

A: I’m getting there. I could get there. You?

B: I’m way past it.

A: Come back.

B: It doesn’t work like that.

A: We’re just making it up as we go

B: And that’s the problem

A: Forget the past. Live in the moment

B: I’m a planner.

A: Let’s plan on it then

B: Get your calendar. And…

A: And?

B: Make the first entry, horsey.