Town Line Tuesday: Flashbacks

The Demon of New Salem opens on Daphne Pendragon struggling to put her life back together a year after a devastating loss shattered it like glass. When we meet her, Daphne has already had enough adventures to fill a whole series of novels, but it is here, picking up the pieces, trying to rebuild what’s left of her life, making the decision to return to New Salem after ten years of exile, where Daphne’s story really begins. Still, all those untold adventures are a huge part of Daphne and good, bad, or so ugly they need to be buried so deep they’ll never see the light of day, these stories make Daphne who she is and they all (or at least some of them) deserve to be told. And because Daphne keeps her past locked up as tight as she possibly can (not to mention the fact that her telling these stories to another character would be clumsy and impractical from a writing standpoint) the only way these stories will (probably) get told is through flashbacks.

Originally, I was going to insert flashbacks where they were needed and in no particular order. Truth be told, this probably would’ve been easier to write—albeit messier and perhaps even confusing to read. Instead, after much internal debate, I’ve decided to use flashbacks to tell a second, cohesive story that will run parallel to Daphne’s present. This is hardly a new or original idea but it is definitely how I should’ve been using flashbacks from the start. Initially, however, I didn’t want the flashbacks to play such a huge role in the story, I wanted them to slowly reveal some of Daphne’s past in pieces and then move on. In some ways, this might’ve worked better—at least, the original flashbacks I’d already written were put in in response to certain triggers in the main story and in at least one instance I referred back to a flashback in a later unrelated scene and now that the flashbacks are being rewritten certain questions answered in the original flashbacks will have to be left for later books (yes, this is hopefully going to be a series but I refuse to think too hard about that at least until I get book one written) and certain present scenes will probably have to be re-worked to fit the new flashbacks. Sometimes writing is a straight line… and sometimes you get messes like this. Oh well. It’s a good thing I love it.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of needing a cohesive story to tell through flashbacks that works with—and runs parallel to—the main storyline. It took a lot of contemplation and deliberation but, in the end, the answer was actually pretty obvious. If The Demon of New Salem is about Daphne trying to rebuild her life, what better secondary story to tell than the story of how it fell apart? Through flashbacks, you’ll see Daphne’s last AEGIS (secret vigilante organization, possibly more on that in a later post) mission before everything falls apart. It’s a storyline that, though I didn’t plan it, connects with the main story arc in a critical way. Funny how that happens sometimes.