Home > Inspiration for writing > 10 Ideas for a character flashback

10 Ideas for a character flashback

child with spraypaint

Was your child a nuisance when they were little?

This article was written in Flashback week to hopefully give you some ideas of what to post about in your character’s Flashback.

Here’s some ideas:

Explain how you got that scar

If your character is the rough, rugged type they might have an impressive scar on their face. The scare probably comes with a story where they fought a great beast, or a bitter enemy. That’s a great story to tell.

Trouble with the law

Is your character a troublemaker? Have they always been like this? You might want to show the first time they had a run-in with the law, maybe for committing a small crime and got caught, or had a narrow escape. They could be even younger and were always getting into trouble with a teacher for shenanigans in the playground. It would be a great contrast if your character is now a calm, law-abiding citizen to show that they once had a rebellious streak and often got in trouble with the law, maybe this is what set them on the straight and narrow.

First childhood memory

Your character’s flashback could include the very first memory they had of anything, when they first opened their eyes did they see the warm smiling face of a parent, or did they see something far more sinister?

First girlfriend/boyfriend

Your character’s flashback could cover they time they first had a romantic relationship. First relationships are awkward and can be very frustrating, because you’re not quite sure what to do. Your character has to come to terms with their feelings for the other person, maybe they don’t want to admit it at first? Or maybe the object of their affections is out of bounds and difficult to win over? You could show their first kiss, and how important it was to them. Depending on how old your character is, you might want to explore their first sexual experiences, maybe it’s not all they expected it to be? Maybe it all goes wrong and gets incredibly embarrassing?

First relationships normally don’t work, and your character will experience a break-up for the first time, how do they deal with this? They could get depressed, get angry or just go totally loopy. How they deal with this might shape their character for later in life.

Where you got that favourite item of clothing

Your character might have a distinctive way of dressing, like they always wear a hat, or leather jacket, or wear a bow-tie for no particular reason. There might be a great story about why they started wearing that item of clothing. It could be that they were inspired by a person they met in their life, or it might be to distinguish themselves in some way. You can tell the story about where they got the hat, or leather jacket. Maybe it was stolen, or used as a disguise?

First job

Whatever profession your character does now might not be what they always wanted to do. Maybe your character wanted to be a blacksmith? or an astronaut? or a ballerina? You could show they trying to get into their idea job but failing, or you could show them getting their ideal job but quitting for some reason. You could also show how your character got to the position they are in now, and how they’ve worked their way up the ranks using whatever nefarious method to get promoted.

First time you met your arch nemesis

Your character might have a bitter enemy, but when was the first time they met? Maybe they knew each other at school, or maybe they’re long-lost brothers separated when they were children? The relationship of your character with their most hated enemy is important, and so is the history of that relationship. Maybe your enemy actually used to be your closest friend, but a difference in opinion caused a rift between you.

How you learned your special skill

Is your character quite skilled at a certain task? Maybe they’re an expert swordsman, or marksman, or pilot. You could show in a flashback  the time before they learned their skill and show how they learned it, and why. They might have had to learn swordfighting very quickly just before a big battle. Or they might have been scared of using a gun but forced to use one to escape an enemy. Or they might have really wanted to travel into space, and had to learn how to fly to achieve this. For additional drama, throw in as many obstacles to overcome so that it’s not too easy for your character.

How you met your accomplice

Has your character got a best friend or a business partner who you always write about with your character? You might want to write about the time they first met and became friends. It could have been during an exciting adventure, or a time of crisis when they really needed each others help, and then became great friends afterwards.

What happened to your parents?

Have you ever mentioned your character’s parents? It’s often easy to ignore them but they will have been very important in shaping the personality of your character. Maybe your character is an orphan, and never knew his parents, which makes him always wonder what sort of people they were. Your character might have watched their parents get killed at an early age by a baddie which you’ve sworn to kill if you ever met them again.

You can see some of these examples used in movies and TV programmes, I’ve even compiled a list of movies with flashbacks here. There are many more examples than mentioned on this page, and these examples are so vague that they could be written in many different ways. They are just intended as starting points for you to think of a flashback about your own character.

If you’ve been inspired by this list I’d love to see what you’ve come up with. Please link to your story in the comments below.

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  1. August 14, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Nice post. A little back-story can go a long way.
    -Josh

  2. August 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I love these ideas. Really. I sometimes have a difficult time deciding how to incorporate the past into words describing the present. This helps.

    Thinking back,
    D.

  3. N00b
    September 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I used the first one even before I read this…
    😛
    I just had to explain the scar.

    • September 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks for the comments!

      The scar one is quite popular I think, lots of people mention their characters having scars, and I think it’s a great think to mention every so often, and gives your character a real feeling that they’ve been in some scrapes.

  1. August 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm
  2. August 27, 2010 at 11:54 am
  3. August 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm

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