Some of the best explanations can be done without a character talking at all. Going back in time, or forward to the conclusion your character may be jumping to in their head, can accomplish more than simple conversation would be able to. Not only does it allow you a chance to describe in detail certain important pieces of the puzzle, but it shows a side of the character the reader may not have seen before.
This works, as I’ve found, beautifully, for the characters who are intensely guarded.
Not to mention it can eat up wordcount like a beast when you need it (typically only done for nano, as far as I’ve seen).
Obviously, consider what you can do with it, but the flashback is a tool at your disposal for when everything else just doesn’t cut it. It can help to relate the character to the reader, to explain how they act or why they speak in a certain way(or not at all), and any number of things you can think of. The possibilities are endless!
They can be as deep as being a whole separate scene, or as light as being a random, drug up thought by the character, whatever the story calls for.
The Wordsmith pauses then, considering a time recently when she created something of the sort, but shakes her head of the thought and carries on, too embarrassed by the way it turned out to let her mind linger on it any longer.
Indulge, experiment, and consider. It can take up a few lines, or a few to several dozen pages. It can set up a scene, or the whole book. Though, that’s another thing entirely, going back and forth between times, to show off certain parts of a story and particular points, for the express purpose of telling it one specific way.
I am reminded of Friend’s Nano novel of last year, which roughly 1/4 to 1/2 of the story was a flashback, setting up the rest of the book and/or series. The year before, a flashback turned the tides of the story in a way he wasn’t expecting.
On the other hand, my flashbacks all tend to be small, thoughts, light ideas that flicker in and then out.
Now I can’t help but think about the show/movie version of these things, which trips you into a different part in time with a wavy layover or a dreamy, misty coloring at the edges. Which happens either while a character thinks, or when they’re telling someone about an event. Think of the majority of Phantom of the Opera, if you’ve seen the one with Gerard Butler, at least.
Let your mind run wild, and then somehow get it into writing.
-The Novice Wordsmith