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Flash Forward Examples in Narrative | What is It and How to Use

In our Narrative Techniques articles, we already talk about the Flashback narrative technique. Today it is the turn of the Flash Forward narrative technique.

Flashback and flashforward are two narrative techniques that concern the timing of the narrative. In particular, Flashback allows us to jump into the past during the course of a story. On the other hand, Flash Forward is the opposite.

By providing glimpses into the future, Flash Forward allows readers to anticipate events and outcomes, creating suspense and intrigue.

In this article, we will explore the definition and meaning of Flash Forwards, examine examples from literature, discuss how to effectively use them in your novel, and provide tips for seamless incorporation.

Flash Forward meaning

A Flash Forward is a literary device where the narrative jumps forward in time, presenting events that are projected to happen in the future. It is a departure from the traditional linear structure of storytelling, offering a glimpse into what lies ahead.

Flash-forwards can range from brief glimpses to extended sequences, and they can be used to foreshadow upcoming events, reveal character motivations, or create dramatic tension.

By disrupting the chronological order, Flash Forwards engage readers’ curiosity and keep them invested in the story.


What is a Flashforward?

A flash forward is when a story briefly shows a future event, providing a glimpse of what might happen later, contrasting with flashbacks that go back in time.

Purpose of using Flash Forwards

Flash Forwards play several crucial roles in narrative construction. Let’s see the most important.

  • Creating suspense. Flash forwards can heighten suspense and anticipation, keeping readers engaged and eager to discover the outcome of future events.
  • Foreshadowing. Flash forwards allow you to foreshadow significant events or outcomes, building tension and adding depth to your storytelling.
  • Character development. By showing future events or the consequences of characters’ actions, Flash Forwards can provide valuable insights into their motivations and personalities.

Exploring different types of Flash Forward techniques

Flash forwards can take various forms, each with its own unique impact on the narrative. Let’s explore some different types of Flash Forward techniques:

  1. Dream sequences: Dreams can provide a platform for Flash Forwards, allowing characters to glimpse future events or possibilities.
  2. Visions or prophecies: Characters may have visions or receive prophecies that reveal future events, adding an element of mysticism to the narrative.
  3. Flash-forward chapters: Devoting entire chapters to Flash Forwards can create a distinct narrative structure and provide a deeper exploration of future events.

Tips for incorporating Flash Forwards into your narrative

To ensure that Flash Forwards are seamlessly integrated into your narrative, consider the following tips:

  1. Relevance: Ensure that your Flash Forwards are relevant to the story and contribute to its development. They should provide valuable insights and enhance the readers’ understanding of the characters or plot.
  2. Plan ahead. Outline your Flash Forwards in advance and determine their purpose within the story. This will help you avoid inconsistencies and ensure that they serve a clear narrative function.
  3. Timing: Place your flash forwards strategically within the narrative to maximize their impact. They should come at moments that create suspense or anticipation for what is to come.
  4. Use transitions. Smoothly transition into and out of Flash Forwards. You can use textual cues, such as italics, changes in tense, transitional phrases, or descriptive language that indicates a shift in time. Failing to clearly indicate a flash forward can confuse readers and disrupt their understanding of the narrative.
  5. Maintain coherence. Even though flash forwards disrupt the chronological order, it is important to maintain coherence in your storytelling. Inaccurate or inconsistent details in Flash Forwards can undermine their credibility and confuse readers. Ensure that the events depicted in the Flash Forwards align with the overall narrative.
  6. Avoid overuse: Using too many Flash Forwards can disrupt the flow of the story and confuse readers, diluting their impact. Be selective and use them sparingly to maintain their effectiveness.
  7. Avoid spoiling surprises. If used carelessly, Flash Forwards can reveal crucial plot twists or surprises, diminishing their impact when they occur.

Flash Forward examples

Literature is replete with Flash Forwards examples that demonstrate the versatility and impact of this narrative technique.

One notable Flash Forward example can be found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby”. In Chapter 5, the protagonist, Jay Gatsby, is shown imagining a future reunion with his love interest, Daisy Buchanan. This Flash Forward not only reveals Gatsby’s longing for Daisy but also foreshadows the tragic events that will unfold.

Another flashforward example can be seen in Margaret Atwood‘s dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale“. Atwood employs intermittent Flash Forwards to provide glimpses of the protagonist’s life after the oppressive regime has fallen. These Flash Forwards serve to heighten the suspense and emphasize the importance of the protagonist’s struggle.

Among the Flashforward examples, we must also mention “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut. This novel employs a non-linear narrative structure, incorporating flash forwards to depict the protagonist’s experiences during and after World War II. The flash forwards not only provide insight into the character’s post-war life but also explore the themes of time and destiny.

A notable example of Flash Forward in literature is also “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell. This novel weaves together multiple storylines across different time periods, utilizing flash forwards to connect the narratives and reveal the impact of characters’ actions on future generations.

Optimizing Flash Forward in your writing process with bibisco

With bibisco novel writing software, you can seamlessly integrate Flash Forwards into your narrative to create anticipation and intrigue.

Its intuitive design and comprehensive features empower writers to craft compelling stories that effectively employ this narrative technique.

bibisco's Timeline - What is flash-forward? Take a look at flash-forward meaning and flash-forward definition literature.
bibisco’s Timeline Management

Whether you’re mapping out future events or exploring alternate timelines, bibisco provides the tools you need to bring your Flash Forwards to life with precision and creativity.

Conclusions about the narrative technique of Flash Forward

Flash forwards can be a powerful tool for writers, allowing them to engage readers’ curiosity and create suspense. By providing glimpses into the future, flash forwards add depth and complexity to the narrative, revealing character motivations and foreshadowing events.

However, it is crucial to use flash forwards judiciously and consider their impact on the overall storytelling. By following the tips outlined in this article and studying the notable flash forward examples mentioned, you can effectively incorporate flash forwards into your novel and harness their power to captivate readers.

If you want to know more about the management of time in the novel, take a look also at the posts about Flashback and Backstory.

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