One particularly valuable device for storytelling is the use of flashbacks whereby an event in the past is brought into the present and displayed to the audience (following the advice that it is best to show rather than tell).  The event will generally be of particular significance to the narrative and encourage the reader to re-evaluate what they have already learned about the characters and plot up to that point.  As with everything else, of course, flashbacks can be played around with.  You would normally expect them to be a truthful depiction of a past event but, of course, they don’t have to be.  The account could be told by an unreliable narrator.  They could be used to set up a false trail.  Flashbacks, however, are already adding on a layer of complication that the audience needs to take into account and graft on to their knowledge of the present, so to complicate it further does carry the danger of creating confusion, undermining the audience’s enjoyment rather than enhancing it.  The length of a flashback can vary enormously, from a single moment to an entire story in itself.

In ‘Casanova in Paris’ we’ve used several flashbacks for different purposes.  To deepen the understanding of Casanova’s character we skip back to a formative event in his childhood twenty years earlier.  To help to explain why he keeps the company of Stefano, a man who on the surface seems to be an uneducated waster and parasite, we return to a moment when Stefano saved Casanova’s life.  To introduce key information at a crucial point in the plot we return to a hitherto undisclosed moment in Casanova’s interrogation of Guillaime.  To speed up exposition, we combine in one double page spread Damien’s attempt to kill Louis XV with his imprisonment and torture by Bechard.  To simply add dramatic interest, we illustrate the different ways Paris-Duverney’s business has been sabotaged as he explains his plight to Casanova.

‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.

27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.


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