“All memory is subversive,” says the writer Eduardo Galeano. In fiction, memory reveals itself as flashback. Diving into the past can “subvert” a typical narrative in great ways–providing context, creating layered characters, disrupting a conventional storyline, and adding depth. But flashbacks also risk weighing down a novel, killing its pacing, and feeling arbitrary. In this talk, we will get curious about flashbacks. When should flashbacks be inserted and why? How much memory is necessary? How can we write flashbacks that propel a story rather than paralyze it? The lecture will focus on novel writing, and will include readings, exercises, and ideas to get you thinking about how flashback can be a revelatory tool.
Frances de Pontes Peebles is the author of the award-winning novels The Seamstress and The Air You Breathe. She is a 2020 Creative Writing Fellow in Literature from The National Endowment for the Arts. A native of Pernambuco, Brazil, she holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in O. Henry Prize Stories, Zoetrope: All-Story, Missouri Review, Indiana Review, and Guernica. She teaches at StoryStudio and serves as Visiting Associate Professor of Fiction at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.