Flashbacks in Fiction and a Contest
Like just about everything regarding the craft of writing, flashbacks are loved by some and hated by others.
Personally, I like flashbacks. I love a book that explores two or more times, allowing past subplots to tie in with the main story. If you’re a fan of both contemporary and historical romance, flashbacks can satisfy those two literary cravings at once. Paranormal characters such as vampires and other magical creatures with long lives are perfect for flashbacks.
When I started planning my latest release, Black Cat, I was very excited about incorporating several flashbacks into the story. The main characters are a vampire and a cat shifter. Both have long lives and their past together began in the 1600s. To me including flashbacks was the best way to tell their story, even though the main plot takes place in a single night.
Although I love flashbacks, using them can at times be problematic. For me the challenge is finding a smooth transition from past to present and back again. In television and the movies, a change of costume, scenery and music allows viewers to understand the time shift right away. In a book it sometimes takes a bit longer to describe the change and get the reader into the characters’ past. I’ve found that asking for feedback from someone else is a huge help, not just for stories with flashbacks, but for stories in general. Practicing flashbacks by using them in short stories and writing exercises is also a good way to become more comfortable with them. You’ll also get a feel for when they’ll work for you and when they won’t.
The following excerpt from Black Cat includes a flashback. I hope you enjoy it!
Whisper 4: Black Cat
by Kate Hill
From Changeling Press
Vampire Edmond Chancellor and cat shifter Tobias Crawford have had a not-so-secret affair for over three hundred years. Edmond wants to bond with Tobias permanently, but Tobias has reasons for keeping his distance.
On a chilly December night, both men turn to past memories for guidance, but it’s a present danger that makes them realize that time is precious, even to men who are practically immortal.
The Following Excerpt from Black Cat is for readers 18 and over.
Tobias shed his clothes in the barn behind Edmond’s house. The animals were accustomed to him and paid little attention as he shifted to his feline form. His sleek black coat warmed him against the winter chill and as a cat he could travel quicker than as a human.
His mind raced along with his four strong legs as he made his way across the miles of frost-covered fields toward Whisper Square. Halfway there, he paused, his ears straining, and sniffed. He turned toward an old oak tree in the distance. Among its bare braches sat two large cats, their bodies pressed close. They glanced in Tobias’ direction and greeted him with a wave of their tails. His great-grandson, Ben, and his new wife, whom he’d married during a visit to Egypt, were apparently enjoying the winter night.
Tobias swished his tail in return before bounding off.
Though it had been centuries since he’d been to his homeland, Egypt would always be part of Tobias’ soul. He had been born there. His family had resided there for over four thousand years.
Yes, memories of his life there would always be with him, but they usually didn’t disturb him so much. It seemed tonight everything upset him, or maybe it wasn’t just tonight and it wasn’t only memories of Egypt.
It was Edmond.
Despite their immediate attraction to each other, they had moved slowly at first–at least on an emotional level. Physically they had been drawn to each other by a seemingly uncontrollable force.
From the moment they’d met, Tobias had desired Edmond. Pausing again to glance toward Edmond’s mansion, he recalled the first time they’d met.
* * *
Tobias’ large paws left prints in the snow. He paused, blowing white puffs of air through his feline nostrils and glanced around the shadowy woods. The wilderness of the New World was indeed beautiful, almost as magical as his native Egypt, though in a different way. Egypt held the secrets of the stars and the soul of the ancients.
This world was raw. Untamed. It needed guidance. Depending on its conquerors, it could become a heaven or a hell. Tobias wondered which way it would go. He and several members of his family with whom he’d traveled since leaving Egypt had taken a liking to this world and intended to stay for a time. They had arrived twenty-nine years before in the year 1620 and even in that relatively short time had seen many changes. More settlements had cropped up. Not that Tobias or his people spent much time among humans. Egypt had welcomed his kind. The people there had lived and worked alongside felines, even worshipped them. Violence against a feline was subject to swift justice. If Tobias had known what he and his children would find after leaving Egypt, he might have tried harder to stay, yet he had truly had no choice.
Since leaving Egypt, they had found violence everywhere. Across Europe and Asia, felines had been slaughtered for fur and meat or executed for consorting with witches, yet another group that had been unjustly persecuted.
Tobias had hoped that by bringing his family to this new world, they would have a chance to build a life for themselves, away from the unsubstantiated hatred. The endless wilderness of this place would take generations to populate, even for creatures as ambitious as man.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of heavy breathing and the familiar slash of a blade through air. Tobias growled and his fur bristled. On silent feet he stalked through the snowy woods and paused behind a boulder outside a clearing. A man wearing boots, breeches and a linen shirt, damp with sweat despite the weather, practiced with a silver-pommeled sword. He had shoulder-length brown hair bound at his nape. Several tendrils had come loose and clung to his damp cheeks and neck. His wide-set blue eyes gleamed in the moonlight as he fought an imaginary opponent. Tobias’ heart skipped a beat at the fierceness in those eyes.
Tobias knew this wasn’t a mere human–the man’s scent told him that. It was a deliciously powerful aroma, similar to that of an animal shifter. It was musky yet fresh but with an underlying potency-like the finest Egyptian incense. Tobias had met people with a similar scent and they were invariably dangerous.
Tobias tensed. He hadn’t expected to find a vampire here in this untamed land. Vampires liked their creature comforts, not to mention they preferred to mark their territory in heavily populated areas where hunting was simple, plentiful, and where no one asked questions when slaves and peasants went missing.
Worst of all, Tobias knew that there was never only one vampire. Like wolves, they traveled in packs, yet unlike wolves they killed for pleasure, not simply to survive.
Tobias’ protective instincts rose. Should he attack now and rid his new home of this fiend? Yet if he did, this vampire’s kin would hunt him and his family. Although they despised most other races, vampires were fiercely loyal to their own families.
The vampire stopped his practice and stood, panting, his jewel-like eyes surveying the area.
“Who’s there?” he called in a smooth voice, neither too deep nor too high. It was perfect and Tobias resisted the urge to purr at the sound of it.
Tobias remained still, blending in the shadows.
“I know you’re there. I can smell you.”
Damn. Vampires’ senses were almost as keen as that of cat shifters.
“Show yourself, since I’ve ruined your plans for a surprise attack. Or perhaps you’ll run. I wouldn’t be surprised if you did. After all, only cowards hide in the shadows.”
Tobias nearly snorted with laughter. It was a childish taunt, designed to draw out a stupid foe. Tobias hadn’t lived thousands of years because he was stupid or merely lucky.
For several moments neither Tobias nor the vampire moved or spoke. It seemed they didn’t so much as breathe.
Then the vampire approached. Tobias considered running or attacking, but like most cats, curiosity got the better of him. He stepped from behind the boulder, directly in the path of the vampire who stopped walking, his blue eyes wide.
Tobias’ tail swished in a warning and he growled softly.
“Can’t say I expected this,” the vampire said.
Previous books in the Whisper series:
Whisper 1: Dragon’s Bar
Whisper 2: Bronzed
Whisper 3: Mating Call
Link to the Whisper Site:
Always a fan of romance and the paranormal, Kate Hill started writing over twenty years ago for pleasure. Her first story, a short erotic vampire tale, was accepted for publication in 1996. Since then she has sold over one hundred short stories, novellas and novels.
When she’s not working on her books, Kate enjoys reading, working out and spending time with her family and pets.
She enjoys hearing from readers and she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit Kate online at http://www.kate-hill.com.
To enter this contest you must be 18 or over.
To enter for the chance to win a pdf download of one of the first three books in the Whisper series (winner’s choice of title), please comment, leaving your email address in the BODY of the comment. The contest will run for three days from the day of this post. At the end of that time, a winner will be selected from the comments. Thank you!