OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


Flashbacks help character building

someone sleeping on bench

Only a few days to go now until the start of Flashback week, and already the response has been positive! I’ve chatted to a few GMs of roleplaying games, who’ve told me they’ve spread word to their members about the Flashback week competition, and even planned their own smaller, in-game competitions. A great way to do this is if your game is on OngoingWorlds is to use the awards, that’s what they were created for!

But Flashback week isn’t just about winning the competition, there’s also a decent reason for using flashbacks in your story; it helps develop your character.

Back-story for characters is important

If you enjoy writing about your characters you’ll know that a good back-story really adds a lot of depth to your characters, but it’s difficult sometimes to make the back-story relevant to what’s currently going on, so you bundle it all into your character biography, only to find that nobody bothers to bloody read it, or you just don’t have enough space.

SMAndyFlashbacks help because in a character bio, you are limited for space.  But you can expand on that quite easily with a flashback – maybe even a series of flashbacks.  Why not even go all the way, and have some characters thrown back in time to a place where you were previously?  an interactive flashback!  The possibilities are endless.

SMAndy, GM of HMS Sovereign

If you write a flashback however the back-story becomes part of the current plot. You could even relate it to something that’s currently going on with your character right now. They might get a visit from an old friend or enemy from the academy, and you can write about when they first met, or they could have encountered a piece of alien technology they once encountered in their first ever mission. Or, like SMAndy says in the quote above, what about your character revisiting his or her past, either through time travel, or something else, like in a dream or coma?

If something really tragic happened in that character’s past, writing out the full story also gives it much more impact than footnotes in a biography.

DuriIf you simply state that your character’s parents died in an accident, it won’t affect your readers as much as if you had a flashback of when your character was first informed of their death. Making an impact on your readers can allow them to understand what your character went through, and how it affects their current actions in the storyline.

Duri, GM of Terrifyingly Yours and Two Halves Make a Whole

It’s not just us that like flashbacks, they’re also used loads in films and TV. So flashbacks work, it’s a little break from the normal to expand on your characters, so use them!

If you want to enter the flashback week competition, see this page for rules and more information!