It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. —E.L. Doctorow, novelist, essayist and professor best known for his works of historical fiction (who also maybe adored licorice).
Yep, doing something new here: A little writing advice chased by a little trivia (with a dash of speculation).
The headlights writing advice was provided to me (in response to my novel manuscript) by a former writing instructor and current friend, David L. Robbins, who has written about a million historical novels at this point. (Don’t know if he’s a licorice fan, but I’ll inquire.)
Why that advice?
Because, I admit it, I am a lover of the flashback. Sometimes called an analepsis (but not by me), a flashback is an interjected scene that takes the reader to a time before the current action. You know, backstory.
I’m a lover of the flashback within a flashback. (Though I know this is terribly wrong and something for which I should flog my writerly self.) Here we’re interrupting the forward moving action to talk about something in the past and then interrupting that something to talk about another past something. Whew!
And, heck, while we’re here, what’s wrong with a little flash-forward now and then?
What did Doctorow know?
Sometimes the problem is we didn’t start the story in the right spot. If we’re constantly looking back, maybe that’s where the story should start. (Looking forward? Maybe we started too early in time.) Just don’t fall into the trap of turning backstory into dialogue for characters to deliver. Too much “remember the time…?” reads false.
So, in my novel-in-progress I killed my prologue because it took place years before the current action (and it was a prologue); and I’m doing my darnedest to drive by my headlights.
Do I promise to use no flashbacks, no flash-forwards?
No. Moderation in all things, as the Greeks said…those Greeks who called licorice “sweet root.” Did you think I’d forgotten what day it is?
Officially a weed, licorice has been prized for its health benefits for thousands of years, and is even said to have properties that may slow the effects of aging on the brain.
So, maybe have a piece of licorice to stimulate your writerly brain, turn on those headlights and get back to work.