How many times have you been in a group of friends or strangers when a certain phrase is heard. Suddenly, this phrase brings you back to a previous experience with a friend, lover or family member. What’s happening in your brain is an internal flashback sequence. Your mind is flashing back to a previous point in time. In the world of screenwriting, identifying transitional devices to trigger a flashback sequence is paramount to the success of the flashback. Regardless of the genre your script fits in, if you’re utilizing flashbacks as a means of telling your story, perhaps a spoken phrase is the perfect transitional device.
Phrases, words or even songs can trigger memories. These triggering elements are essential when applying flashbacks into your screenplay. This guide clarifies the requirements for this technique.
Identifying the Phrase
There you are with your friends at a bar. It has been 10 years since your lover was killed in a car accident. While you’ve moved on, there is a section of your brain that is still unsettled. Suddenly, you hear a stranger tell his friend, “She was moving as slow as molasses.” Upon hearing this familiar phrase, a memory of your lover and yourself driving behind a truck bubbles to the surface. In this memory, your lover says, “He is driving as slow as molasses.” Now, because of an accidental eavesdropping moment, memories of your lover and the sadness of their passing fill your brain.
In the world of screenwriting, this story element provides an excellent vehicle to trigger a flashback. I find that if you use either a spoken phrase, or even phrases from songs, the intense memories that open up are limitless. You may find that the use of a spoken phrase as a flashback transitional device allows you to create a more intimate connection with the present day and the past.
Being able to create a solid connection between these two time periods is among the most essential aspects of writing a flashback sequence. If you’re seeking out a unique flashback trigger, then consider the use of a phrase. While one of the more difficult transitional devices to master, once you do your script will be unique as it truly unveils the deeper emotional connection the character has with a previous experience/encounter.