OngoingWorlds blog

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


Why we love flashbacks

Flashback week write and roleplay about your character's pastIf you’ve not heard about Flashback week, see the details here and remember to enter the competition here.

In my last article I explained that flashbacks are great ways to help build your character, and they’re also really great fun to write because it gives you a totally open canvas to put your character anywhere and in any situation. If you’re writing about them with others as part of a roleplaying game, this can sometimes be quite a difficult thing to do, because you’ll have to get everyone else to agree that the story is taking a turn in the direction you want it to. But as anyone who’s ever done collaborative writing knows, the story won’t always go in that direction!

I’m really glad that Flashback week is encouraging many people to write about their characters outside the confines of their usual environment. Just before writing this article I received this comment:

I love the idea BTW, anything to encourage RP writers and you’re right, flashbacks can be very important for character development.

Sarah, Starbase 118

Introduce other characters

Also it’s not just about your character, it’s a great way to introduce other characters, so that your character’s friends or adversaries are not just faceless NPC’s invented on the spot to perform a role in your story, they can be characters who you’ve explained have a long history with your character.

SMAndyFlashbacks are awesome. They allow you to show some specific part of your characters background while integrating it into the story.  Maybe they’ve experienced something similar to whats going on now, and can use that experience to help them out now!  It’s also a great way to introduce bad guys, as the Heroes of the story may have unwittingly created the bad guy they’re about to face.

SMAndy, Blue Dwarf and HMS Sovereign

Tell a story out of order

You’ll notice that there are loads of films that use flashbacks (LINK), and use them liberally too. We’re getting used to the normal conventions of storytelling, and telling a story out of order isn’t a problem for the intelligent modern audience. We can create flashback stories at any time to go back and fill in the gaps in our stories.

MikeI knew that I could use flashbacks to give more substance to the story as it went on. Again, being a lazy writer, this meant I could just plough on with the story as I intended it, adding to it when I came to a point I felt I needed to elaborate, without deviating from the main story.

Mike, GM of Wizards Inc

Don’t just limit yourself to flashback week

Obviously there’s nothing stopping you from writing flashbacks at any time of the year, we’re only trying to encourage you to do it in the same week as everyone else, just to build up some camaraderie.

SMAndyI never plan to involve flashbacks in my game.  Sometimes they are required, and I wouldn’t limit myself to a specific week in the year to do it.  Sovereign is a game that would allow for a lot of flashbacks, since i purposefully didn’t put much information about Earth into my descriptions.  while I haven’t specifically planned for any, I do know that there will be some.

SMAndy, Blue Dwarf and HMS Sovereign

If you want some ideas for a character flashback, see our ideas here.