Flashbacks in literature – how to make them effective

There are many examples of flashback in literature. Some are skillfully pulled off. Some others totter on the brink of disaster, but manage to lead the reader back to the story before all is lost. Finally, some other flashbacks are like a knife in the hands of a butcher: they slaughter the story and leave it agonizing, bleeding to death. This doesn’t necessarily mean that writing a strong and effective flashback is a herculean feat. In fact, this could merely mean that flashbacks tend to be overlooked by authors. Because they are considered “easy stuff”. From a purely technical point of view they are right–it’s not at all that difficult to devise an effective flashback. However, to fully exploit the evocative powers of a flashback it is essential to follow some basic principles.

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6 easy tips on how to use the exclamation point in creative writing

It’s extremely easy to use the exclamation point. In fact, you should never use such a banal device to draw the attention of your readers to what you’re writing! Never!! Not even in non fiction!!! Or rather, especially not in non fiction!!!! Well, if the exclamation point has to be used so sparingly as to appear no more than a few times every 100.000 words, then, you might think, it would be better to discard it altogether. But there’s always a but. Especially in the realm of rules about grammar and language. In fact, writers love giving advice about writing–after all, for them it’s a way as good as any other to keep debating about what they love most. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you should follow all the tips they toss off. The reason is simple. Writing is such a personal endeavour that there’s no guarantee of sorts that what…

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11 Myths about creative writing and writers

Myths have accompanied us as a species since the dawn of time. Even if it might seem strange, given that evolution hasn’t wiped them off our DNA pool, they must provide us with some kind of benefit. However, this doesn’t mean all myths are always and necessarily useful or constructive. For example, sometimes myths about writing grow out of stereotypes and biases. And tend to radicate with uncanny ease in the minds of people, even if at a closer look many of such myths are in stark contradiction the one with the other. Here I present a list of some of the most widespread myths about writing. And examine them in detail to shed a bit of light on what is true and what is not.

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Stylistic devices – how to end a story

We humans are a bit strange, to say nothing of the dog… Sorry, sometimes I mix what I’m reading — Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) — with what I’m writing, or should be writing. Anyway, I was saying we’re strange. For example, we tend to give a lot of importance to the way things end. I mean, if we go on a vacation for a fortnight and then the last day it rains, we’re bound to feel a bit cheated and depressed. Instead, if it rains the first day of our vacation it rarely is a big deal. The same goes when we have to sit through a dental procedure. Even if the dentist is a sadistic jerk, it’s not a big problem. Really, all he has to do is to let the last five minutes of the procedure go without any discomfort on…

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Photography and writing — how you can use the universal language of creativity to improve your art

Wow, this time around I managed to write a title that’s almost as long as a post. I know they say to keep it short and sweet, but I wanted to make my title as descriptive as possible. So to hell with SEO and crawlers. A post should be written for readers, not for digital spiders of the web. Some days ago I was on Twitter doing some research for a story I’m writing. Well… to be honest, in reality I was loafing about, I was wasting time, postponing, putting things off. You get the idea. This even if some time ago I wrote an extremely erudite and effective post–I hope not too riddled with spelling mistakes and strange turn of phrases–about how to avoid procrastination. In any case, surfing and twitting away I came across a couple of interesting quotes. Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what…

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Why details are important – not only in literature

This is an idiotic post, going around like a drunkard. Probably I didn’t pay enough attention to details when I wrote it. And now it’s too late. Some days ago a friend of mine told me about a new card he had subscribed to. It was one of those cards that reward your shopping around giving you back a usually very small percentage of the amount you spent. My friend was adamant this card was the best thing since sliced bread. And to make his point perfectly clear he told me that you even got a one percent discount on gas–of course provided you used the right coupons and gassed up your car only in the authorized gas stations. Noticing the glint of fanatism in my friend’s eyes, I kept my mouth metaphorically shut, and limited myself to make only vage, uncommittal remarks. But our conversation got me thinking.

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How to find the theme in your stories–and turn them into T-rexes

That of theme is an essential concept in creative writing. In fact, it can give a work of fiction depth and resonance beyond belief. However, it is important to make sure we know what a theme really is. In particular we must pay attention not to confuse it with the subject of a story. For example, in the Lord of the Rings Frodo must travel to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, the only able to rule the other Rings of Power. We can therefore say that the battle for power is the subject of the story. Instead, the main theme of The Lord of the Rings (or rather one of its main themes) has to do with the inherent ability power has to corrupt who wields it. To make things clearer, just think of a book about the war. In such a case the war would be the subject…

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